United Poultry Concerns
December 18, 2006
Powerful Book About Battery Hens Available from UPC
By Clare Druce, Founder of Chickens’ Lib
Young People’s Fiction with Illustrations, ages 8-14
ISBN: 1 903491 21 5 Softcover 129 pages
Available from United Poultry Concerns: $10.
"To Save (and risk going to jail) or Not to Save: That Is the Question."
Review by Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns
Imagine moving from the city to the country cottage of your dreams only
to discover a battery hen business nearby. This is what happens to the
young girl Paula and her parents in Clare Druce’s riveting tale for
young people. It tells what happens when Paula Brown takes a walk one
day from Orchard Cottage to Folly Farm to buy eggs. Approaching the
farm, she wonders why there are no chickens, cows, or pigs – just a huge
Alsatian dog "crouching beside a gloomy kennel."
What Paula finds instead are ten "bleak rows of sheds" emanating "a
musty, sickly sort of smell, unlike anything she knew." Instead of a
"jolly farmer," out comes snarling Mr. Dredge, who tells her "you’re not
wanted here." Soon he boasts he has a quarter of a million hens inside
the ten sheds, "twenty-five thousand per shed."
Paula talks Mr. Dredge into letting her accompany him into Shed Ten.
"Paula knew she would never forget the moment when she first saw the
rows of cages, stacked from floor to ceiling, five tiers high. And she
knew she’d never forget the first time she heard the sound of
twenty-five thousand hens, all together in one building. It took a few
seconds for her eyes to accustom themselves to the gloom, and to realize
that the ghostly impression was due to the myriads of cobwebs that hung
from the roof girders, and festooned various iron struts and items of
machinery. Dusty light bulbs glowed dully the length of the aisle down
which Mr. Dredge was leading the way."
Suddenly she hears a voice from the top cages, imploring: "return, and
I’ll fill you in on every single miserable, rotten, cruel aspect of this
dismal place! You see," the voice says, "you can get out of here, but
for us, it’s a life sentence."
"Paula: ‘Who are you?’
Voice: ‘I’m Minny, and I’ve been standing or crouching down on this wire
floor for the best part of a year. Yes, I’m Minny, a proud descendant of
the Red Jungle Fowl. Say you’ll come back. You see, you’re our only hope.’"
From this point, Paula lives a secret life. She visits Minny and learns
about Minny’s life in the battery cage, her "ancestral memories," and
how those memories form Minny’s dream of the future she longs for –
"Busy, yet contented." Minny tells Paula, "The terrible thing about
dreaming beautiful dreams is that you have to wake up, and face another
Meanwhile, time flies. The Shed Ten hens are about to go to slaughter.
Mr. Dredge tells Paula: "Them hens" are "rubbish." Paula faces a
decision: she "had never gone against her parents’ wishes in anything
really important. But here she was, planning to steal three hens! No,
not steal, she reminded herself. . . . Perhaps she would be put away, to
wherever they put children instead of prison. Perhaps. . . ."
"‘Minny, I’ll have to go,’ Paula hisses when she hears Mr. Dredge
coming! ‘But I promise I’ll be back.’"
What happens next? Buy this wonderful book, with its modern moral
dilemmas about rescuing suffering animals and breaking the law, and find
out. This book is highly recommended. It’s perfect for the intelligent
young person in your life and as a gift to the school library.
Order by check or money order for $10 from UPC, PO Box 150, Machipongo,
VA 23405, or by credit card at www.upc-online.org.