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Spring 2020


A man throws a chicken off a roof in the center of town in Ridgeland, WI. 

Every February Ridgeland, Wisconsin throws a chicken toss event as their Pioneer Days celebration. At the event chickens are tossed off a roof in the center of town while a crowd gathers, drinks and yells in excitement.


According to Dave Delegard, “many of the youngsters that catch a bird know how to grab it” he explains that “It’s on its way to a farm home and the kids are glad and proud of their new possession”


But each year animal activists polarize the event by attending. They find language such as referring to chickens as “possessions” problematic.


According to Alyssa Kobs from Milwaukee Animal Save, “In the past years we have seen people put them in clear plastic bags and tie them up. There is no air for them to breathe and they will die of suffocation.”


The humane treatment of animals in this instance is a complex issue. According to many who live in Ridgeland it is a harmless small-town tradition that they throw every year.


This is due in part that Ridgeland is a rural village with a population of only 223 people. They are a farming community and much like other midwestern villages they are less concerned with animal rights than inhabitants in urban settings.


They see their use of chickens as practical, holding material value with a central utilitarian viewpoint. As the name of the event implies it is meant to draw upon Pioneer life in the 1800’s.


When pioneers settled their focus was cultivating new lands and learning to provide for themselves by using herbs to make household goods. Common tasks for children would include chasing deer and squirrels away from crops. Pioneer neighbors would help each other with barn and house raising which was the primary source of entertainment.


A common complaint from Ridgeland residents is Milwaukee protesters don’t realize the disruption they cause to their town because they see their use of the chickens as sensible. 


Oftentimes events such as chicken tossing only happen in small communities such as Ridgeland. They are relatively isolated from nearby cities limiting their cultural and social points of view. That is why they perceive animal rights activists as disruptive barging into their community.


Animal protesters do not believe Pioneer Days resembles the life of pioneers in early American History. They believe chicken tossing is reductive and spiciest treating animals as objects for human pleasure and entertainment.


It is clear that Ridgeland residents ignore what the animals are telling them because of a morally innocuous ideology. Given that animals are unable to produce consent they express dissent by flying and running away. Often times landing in trees or the roofs of nearby businesses.


Animals are subjects with their own seats of consciousness who are not undifferentiated masses. Like other living beings they do not enjoy pain and thrive when enjoying life. The throwing of chickens produces a fine line between the ethical and aesthetic depiction of animal suffering.


What the Milwaukee Animal Save organization aims to accomplish is to bring farmed animals to the foreground and reveal that animal suffering is not a pleasurable event.

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