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:
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: