Chicken slaughter art project ruffles feathers

February 28, 2012 - 4:35 PM
Chicken Slaughter Art

In this Feb. 17, 2012, photo drawings and a scale model of Amber Hansen's chicken coops are seen in her studio in Lawrence, Kan. Lawrence city officials have banned Hansen's art project, "The Story of Chickens: A Revolution," saying it would amount to animal cruelty. Hansen had planned to display coops of chickens across Lawrence. The exhibit was to end with the birds being publicly killed and served as a meal. She says she wanted to demonstrate the animal slaughter process to meat eaters. (AP Photo/The Kansas City Star, Rich Sugg)

LAWRENCE, Kansas (AP) — Officials have banned an artist from publicly slaughtering chickens, saying the proposed art installation would amount to animal cruelty.

Assistant City Attorney Chad Sublet said Tuesday that artist Amber Hansen told him she intended to abide by the city's animal cruelty ordinance. Violating it could lead to a fine of up to $1,000 and six months in jail. Even keeping the chickens on private land would require her to meet other city codes on animal care.

Sublet said Hansen, an artist in residence at the University of Kansas, is considering alternatives to draw attention to the process of slaughtering animals, including a public sculpture.

Through the project, called "The Story of Chickens: A Revolution," Hansen originally planned to display coops of chickens at locations across Lawrence, where they would be cared for by volunteers. The birds would later be publicly slaughtered by a local farmer and served as a meal.

"By building a relationship with the birds, the project will transform the contemporary view of chickens as merely 'livestock' to the beautiful and unique creatures they are, while promoting alternative and healthy processes of caring for them," she wrote on her project's website.

Hansen received funding from the Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts' Rocket Grants program in collaboration with the Charlotte Street Foundation and the University of Kansas' Spencer Museum of Art.

Hansen spoke to the Lawrence-Journal World newspaper but did not immediately respond to a message from The Associated Press left for her through a relative. She has said she grew up on a farm where some animals were raised for food. She said she began to feel disconnected from her food after she left and went to art school.

"If people choose to eat meat, it is an important process to witness and be mindful of," Hansen told the Lawrence newspaper. "It is a process that takes place on a mass scale every day, and we aren't really allowed to see it."

But several animal rights activists, including Lawrence's Compassion for All Animals group and United Poultry Concerns, had expressed concerns, including that the public display would be stressful for the animals. Hansen acknowledged there had been concerns.

"The project will move forward to accommodate that discussion, but it will abide by the city's codes," she told the Lawrence newspaper.