Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bless Whitney Hillman, a heroine for our times...

I realize my last post on the massive animal extinction that is likely to occur in the not-too-distant future was quite grim. The news can often be very depressing. And there are times when it is impossible - downright impossible - to put a positive spin on a piece of information. Sometimes there is no "looking on the bright side."

But then sometimes you hear about a simple act of heroism that helps restore your faith in humanity.

Sixteen-year old Whitney Hillman (pictured left, with her chicken "Chicklett") is a real heroine for our times.

A high school junior (or in Canada, we would call her a "Grade 11 Student") at Concordia High School in Concordia, Kansas, Hillman made headlines earlier this month when she ran out of her high school carrying an assignment for her class.

The assignment was to slaughter a young chicken, who Whitney has since named Chicklett. As part of an assignment for her "Animal Science and Food Production" class, Whitney was supposed to take a chicken she'd been raising for six weeks, slaughter the animal and eat him.

The Kansas City Star offered a very dramatic play-by-play account of the events leading up to the Chicklett's life being saved:

Chicklett soon grew from a science project to a pet. He liked to be held and petted. She cleaned up his messes and weighed him every week. Whitney knew there was no way she could ever help the chicken cross to the other side.

As slaughter day, Oct. 11, approached, she ran the chicken breakout plan past her mother and stepfather. They went along, her stepfather even agreeing to be the wheel man.

During lunch that day, Whitney sent a text to her stepfather to green light the caper. At fifth hour, she got to the classroom before the other students, snatched up Chicklett from the cage and took off, ditching school for the first time.

“Later that day, I took Whitney back to school to turn herself in,” said her mother, Kristina Frost. “I told her, ‘This is farm country. I’m glad you’re strong.'"

Whitney Hillman was given two days' suspension for saving Chicklett's life, but she doesn't care. She is just happy that Chicklett is alive and well and enjoying the blue sky and sunshine at a beautiful farm in an undisclosed location, the way all animals are meant to live. Thanks to Whitney, Chicklett is happy and healthy and living the good life.

One can hear the cynic: "What difference does it make? Only one chicken was saved. How is that going to change anything?" There is no denying the fact that the overwhelming majority of chickens - damn near all, in fact - end up living short, miserable lives in dark spaces, lives that end violently. According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, 9,075,261,000 chickens were killed in the United States alone in the year 2008. More than 9 billion chickens per year equals 24,863,729 chickens killed per day. And that's just in the U.S.! (Source.)

That is staggering, when you think about it.

So why does it matter that Whitney Hillman saved her one little chicken?

The answer is: It means the world to that one chicken that someone had the courage to act on his behalf.

And it matters because a brave young woman who wasn't an animal rights activist, a vegan, or a militant protester, decided to take action out of a deep heartfelt compassion she felt for a weak and vulnerable animal. She could've gone through with the assignment and the world would've never known. Another chicken would be dead. One more statistic to add to all those billions.

The simple heroism of Whitney Hillman is so inspiring because it speaks to us at a deep level. We are all responsible to help animals. We owe it to them. We may not be able to stop the horrific slaughter of living, breathing, sentient beings overnight, but we can commit small acts of kindness and compassion, and each time we do, a little light flickers on in the darkness. A life is saved. An animal is given another chance. A small victory has been won. And millions and millions of small victories add up to a huge victory.

But enough of my preaching. I'm going to let Whitney Hillman have the last word. Just before she "chicken-napped" Chicklett, she left a beautiful note at her school explaining her reasons. It is so moving, I'm including an excerpt here:

“If you were told to cut off (a pet’s) head, pull off its fur, clean out all the guts, bag and freeze the meat and take it home for your family to enjoy, what would you do? Please don’t judge me on grounds of bad behavior, but on love and empathy for another living being.

“I will gladly accept any punishment. I will not apologize.

“I will not be telling where my chick is, but he is safe.”


  1. All of my life I have had a great respect for other living creatures on this planet, except for humans. You don't have to worry about an animal, outside of humans. A non human animal will know if it likes you or not, they won't act as if they do only to betray your love or trust. A non human animal will kill for survival, not for sport, (generally.) Over the past several years I have believed, and still do very much, that contact with my own species has always disappointed me. Whitney gave me a small shred of hope that humanity is not completely dead.

  2. I applaud this brave act, when you're a kid, authority can be intimidating. The fact that her parents were behind her gave her power, and they are to be congratulated as well.

  3. She is an AMAZING young woman for standing up for her "Chicken"...She did the right thing and took her punishment,If only More young people would follow their hearts and not follow the In Crowd the world would be a much better place...

  4. I am so proud of Whitney. This is the first time I have heard about this, but as soon as I see her I will give her a big hug and tell her she did an amazing thing. I am so proud of her! Go whitney!

  5. Your story has touch my heart. I have a greater respect for chickens and for life it's self. Thank you for loving Chicklett so much and for acting on that.

  6. Fantastic job Whitney - three cheers to you for what you did in standing up for Chicklett's life

  7. I love this story, I have been vegetarian over 24 years and when I was 19 I refused to dissect a frog in biology in college and got a D because of it. I cannot believe that after all these years the school systems are still violating students rights by forcing them to cause pain or kill animals,disgusting.