Archive for November 24th, 2016


by Sam Juliano

Chickens are far more intelligent and cognitively sophisticated than previously believed. Recent studies have resulted in findings that assert they are able to recognize faces and remember voices, even in the case of people who have long been absent.  Furthermore, this cognitive process involved in representational thinking in chickens is similar to those required for associate learning in humans. When one considers that about ninety-nine per cent of all animals killed for food in the United States comes from the combined chicken and turkey fraternities, one is left with a profound sadness that includes even those who partake in the consumption.  Children’s literature has always held the chicken in high intellectual regard, and favorites like Chicken Little, The Little Red Hen and Click Clack Moo show them as enterprising and purposeful.  The British animated film Chicken Run, features a band of chickens who pin their hopes on a smooth-talking Rhode Island Red to help avert their death at the hands of their farm owners, who are looking to convert from selling eggs to chicken pot pies.

In a soulful picture book Preaching to the Chickens the acclaimed writer Jabari Asim has disseminated these human qualities on a flock of barnyard fowl in adherence to a real-life ritual from the childhood of a famed civil rights activist.  Indeed, Asim admits in an afterward that he was always a fervent admirer of John Lewis whose “brave participation as an original member of the Freedom Riders – Americans who in 1961 rode buses into the Deep South to protest the segregation of black and white travelers who were forced to sit on separate benches and drink from separate fountains – bellied the struggle to achieve equality for all.  Asim further relates that he was proud to meet Lewis shortly after reading his powerfully vivid memoir Walking with the Wind, a personal account of the harrowing events that led to long overdue social freedoms.  But it was the passages in the memoir that documented Lewis’ childhood in Pike County, Alabama that moved the author to create his own work, one primarily aimed at an impressionable audience.  Lewis dreamed of becoming a preacher and of moving audiences with powerful sermons.  He found just the captive audience he was looking for in a riveted congregation of chickens “who would sit very quietly moving their heads back and forth” fully attuned to the voice delivering the daily oratories. (more…)

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