PETA Proposes "Chicken Empathy Museum"


Roanoke, Va. -- This morning, PETA sent a letter to Virginia Gov. Timothy Kaine offering to rent the Botetourt Correctional Center building, which is slated to close because of budget concerns, and turn it into America's first chicken empathy museum.

The museum could feature exhibits that include video footage from research conducted at Bristol University in the U.K.--research that showed how chickens are intelligent animals with mental abilities comparable to cats, dogs, and even primates. It could also feature a restaurant that would serve heart-friendly and delicious faux-chicken drumsticks and chickenless pot pie and a gift shop that could provide free plush chickens for kids, with tags reading, "I Am Not a Nugget!" The museum would feature interactive displays, including one in which visitors have weighted backpacks strapped to their backs to simulate how large chickens' upper bodies can grow in proportion to their legs. The museum would also provide area residents with much-needed jobs.

"In addition to creating jobs, the museum would convert a building that was built for the purpose of incarceration into a tribute to liberation," says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. "Chickens are sensitive, smart animals who have feelings just as we do--they deserve better than to be treated like mere meat machines."

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PETA's letter to Gov. Timothy Kaine follows.

September 14, 2009

The Honorable Tim Kaine
Governor of Virginia

Dear Governor Kaine:

I am writing on behalf of Norfolk-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and our more than 2 million members and supporters--including tens of thousands across Virginia--with a money-generating proposition regarding the upcoming closing of the Botetourt Correctional Center near Troutville. When the prison shuts down, we would like to rent the building from the state and turn it into the first-ever chicken empathy museum. In addition to creating jobs and providing much-needed revenue for the commonwealth, the museum would showcase the miserable conditions of intensive confinement in which chickens who are raised and killed for meat are kept. For obvious reasons, a prison seems the perfect setting for exposing these conditions. As you may know, Americans now eat more than 1 million chickens an hour, and with the quest for ever-cheaper meat, these birds spend their lives in filthy sheds, crammed together with thousands of other birds before they are trucked to slaughter.

It is also relevant that chickens are perhaps the most abused species of animal in Virginia. In this state, millions of chickens a year are pumped full of drugs and bred to grow so large so fast that their legs cannot bear their weight, and they often collapse to the shed floor, making it impossible for them to reach food or water. It has been well documented that many chickens have their throats cut open while they're still conscious, and according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, millions of birds nationwide are scalded to death in defeathering tanks. A PETA investigation at a major slaughterhouse owned by Pilgrim's Pride documented that workers were stomping on chickens, kicking them, and violently slamming them against floors and walls. Workers also ripped the animals' beaks off, twisted their heads off, spat tobacco into their eyes and mouths, spray-painted their faces, and squeezed their bodies so hard that the birds expelled feces--all while the chickens were still alive. According to Dan Rather, who described the carnage on the CBS Evening News, "[T]here's no mistaking what [the video] depicts: cruelty to animals, chickens horribly mistreated ...."

The Chicken Empathy Museum will have educational displays that highlight interesting and often conveniently ignored facts about chickens, including that chickens are smart animals with mental abilities comparable to those of cats, dogs, and even primates and that they are good mothers who, in nature, cluck to their unborn chicks, who learn to recognize their calls from inside the shell. And of course, they feel fear and pain, and they love the warmth of the sun on their backs, dust-bathing, and even playing--although they are denied these things on factory farms. The museum would feature interactive displays, including one at which visitors can have backpacks containing 150-pound weights strapped to their backs to simulate the pain chickens experience from carrying an unnaturally large upper body--all because human beings want more breast meat.

Delicious faux-chicken drumsticks will be available in the Chicken Empathy Restaurant along with chickenless pot pie and a host of other tasty vegetarian foods. And as a gift from PETA, each visitor aged 12 or under will receive a plush chicken with a tag reading, "I Am Not a Nugget!"

Thank you for your consideration.


Tracy Reiman
Executive Vice President


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