Portrait Gallery 113


In the centre of Toronto, Canada's biggest city, is an urban oasis called Riverdale Farm. They keep pigs, sheep, goats and ducks there, but what fascinated me when I visited were the chickens, who were uncaged and roaming free across the space.

I sat down on a flower bed to watch the drama unfold. It was clear to me that chickens have a very complex and elaborate social life. Watching the chickens interact with one another, parade about  in the sheep and goat pens as though they owned the place, or peck around in the flower bed with me, it felt as though I were watching an episode of my favourite soap opera.

There were spats, and reconciliations, and urgent conversations followed by restless wandering and just a little posing thrown in for good measure by one particularly well-groomed rooster.

It made me wish that I could understand their language, so that I could follow the many interweaving storylines.

That day at Riverdale Farm changed my view of chickens forever. I was already a vegan, and didn't eat chicken, but as I watched the chickens and roosters live their hectic social lives I became so interested in their cause that I started supporting an organization that lobbied for their well-being, United Poultry Concerns in the United States. It pains me that people think nothing of eating chickens. Such imaginative, colourful and interesting creatures do not belong on a plate.




Bonnie Shulman