Chickens: Their Life and Death in Farming Operations

*By Karen Davis | October 1, 2018 | Comments Welcomed*

The Encyclopaedia Britannica’s Advocacy For Animals is pleased to publish
this
article by United Poultry Concerns President Karen Davis. Please read it,
share
it and, if you are inclined, add an appreciative comment.

Chickens: Their Life and Death in Farming Operations
<http://advocacy.britannica.com/blog/advocacy/2018/10/chickens-their-life-and-death-in-farming-operations/>


United Poultry Concerns is a nonprofit organization that promotes
the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl.
Don’t just switch from beef to chicken. Go Vegan.
http://www.UPC-online.org/ http://www.twitter.com/upcnews
http://www.facebook.com/UnitedPoultryConcerns

View this article online
<http://upc-online.org/industry/181001_chickens-their_life_and_death_in_farming_operations.html>

Thousands of Chickens Perished Instantly: One Poultry Farm’s Fight Against Scorching Heat

(image: Yonhap)

(image: Yonhap)

EUMSEONG, Jul. 19 (Korea Bizwire) — When a heat wave warning was issued for all of North Chungcheong Province on Tuesday afternoon, poultry farm owners in the region were naturally on high alert.

At one poultry farm measuring 800 square meters in size situated in Maengdong-myeon in the province’s Eunseong-gun, over 17,000 chickens were seen suffering as the mercury rose.

Many chickens had collapsed, having succumbed to the heat.

The temperature circa 1:35 p.m. on Tuesday was 31.7 degrees Celsius. Seven gigantic fans were in operation, but were not enough to help cool the chickens down.

By 2 p.m., the thermometer shot up to 35 degrees. Ban, the 43-year-old owner of the poultry farm, said that the summer heat was “just as dangerous as bird flu” for the chickens.

Not paying proper attention to the chickens, even for just a moment, could result in thousands of chickens perishing instantly in the heat, said Ban.

In fact, over 20,000 chickens died on Ban’s very farm in 2016 when temperatures shot up in July.

Following the deaths of the chickens, Ban installed thermal insulation materials in all of the barns, which now helps protect the chickens from the strong summer sun.

But other poultry farms that are not equipped with heat resistant insulation try to keep cool by continuously spraying cold water on rooftops via water hoses.

In addition, farm workers monitor the internal temperature by the hour before checking large ventilation fans installed at the poultry farms to see if they are working properly.

If temperatures within the pens surpass 36 degrees Celsius, moisture mist sprays must be turned on to ensure that the chickens do not dehydrate.

Ban’s farm consumes around 40,700 liters of water every day in the summer months.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, 753,191 chickens had perished from the sweltering summer heat as of July 17.

Lina Jang (linajang@koreabizwire.com)

http://koreabizwire.com/thousands-of-chickens-perished-instantly-one-poultry-farms-fight-against-scorching-heat/121641

The Hen is a Symbol of Motherhood for Reasons We May Have Forgotten,  So Let Us Recall


*By Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns*

*”Her love of her children definitely resembles my love of mine.” *
– Alice Walker

*”The emphasis has been on smaller, more efficient but lighter-weight *
*egg machines.” *
– American Poultry History

In our day, the hen has been degraded to an “egg machine.” In previous
eras, she
embodied the essence of motherhood. In the first century AD, the Roman
historian
Plutarch praised the many ways in which mother hens cherish and protect
their
chicks, “drooping their wings for some to creep under, and receiving with
joyous
and affectionate clucks others that mount upon their backs or run up to them
from every direction; and though they flee from dogs and snakes if they are
frightened only for themselves, if their fright is for their children, they
stand their ground and fight it out beyond their strength.”

The Renaissance writer Ulisse Aldrovandi described how, at the first sign
of a
predator, mother hens will immediately gather their chicks “under the
shadow of
their wings, and with this covering they put up such a very fierce defense –
striking fear into their opponent in the midst of a frightful clamor, using
both
wings and beak – they would rather die for their chicks than seek safety in
flight.” Similarly, in collecting food, the mother hen allows her chicks to
eat
their fill before satisfying her own hunger. Thus, he said, mother hens
present,
in every way, “a noble example of love for their offspring.”

I saw this love in action, when a hen named Eva jumped our sanctuary fence
on a
spring day and disappeared, only to return three weeks later in June with
eight
fluffy chicks. Watching Eva with her tiny brood close behind her was like
watching a family of wild birds whose dark and golden feathers blended
perfectly
with the woods and foliage they melted in and out of during the day.
Periodically, Eva would squat down with her feathers puffed out, and her
peeping
chicks would all run under her wings for comfort and warmth. A few minutes
later
the family was on the move again.

One day, a large dog wandered in front of the magnolia tree where Eva and
her
chicks were foraging. With her wings outspread and curved menacingly toward
the
dog, she rushed at him over and over, cackling loudly, all the while
continuing
to push her chicks behind herself with her wings. The dog stood stock still
before the excited mother hen and soon ambled away, but Eva maintained her
aggressive posture, her sharp, repetitive cackles and attentive lookout for
several minutes after he was gone.

Sitting on her nest, a mother hen carefully turns each of her eggs as often
as
thirty times a day, using her body, her feet, and her beak to move each egg
precisely in order to maintain the proper temperature, moisture,
ventilation,
humidity, and position of the egg during the 3-week incubation period.
Embryonic
chicks respond to soothing sounds from the mother hen and to warning cries
from
the rooster. Two or three days before the chicks are ready to hatch, they
start
peeping to notify their mother and siblings that they are ready to emerge
from
their shells, and to draw her attention to any distress they’re experiencing
such as cold or abnormal positioning.

A communication network is established among the baby birds and between
them and
their mother, who must stay calm while all the peeping, sawing, and
breaking of
eggs goes on underneath her as she meanwhile picks off tiny pieces of shell
that
may be sticking to her chicks and slays any ants that may dart in to
scavenge.
During all this time, as Page Smith and Charles Daniel describe in The
Chicken <http://www.upc-online.org/fall2000/chicken_book_review.html>
Book <http://www.upc-online.org/fall2000/chicken_book_review.html>, “The
chorus of peeps goes on virtually uninterrupted, the unborn chicks
peeping away, the newborn ones singing their less muffled song.”

During the first four to eight weeks or so, the chicks stay close to their
mother, gathering beneath her wings every night at dusk. Eventually, she
flies
up to her perch or a tree branch, indicating her sense that they, and she,
are
ready for independence.

Whenever I tell people stories about chickens enjoying themselves, many
become
very sad. The pictures I’m showing them are so different from the ones
they’re
used to seeing of chickens in a state of absolute misery. *The New York
Times*
restaurant critic William Grimes wrote of a beautiful black hen who entered
his
life unexpectedly one day, an apparent escapee from a poultry market in
Queens.
“I looked at the Chicken endlessly, and I wondered. What lay behind the
veil of
animal secrecy? Did she have a personality, for one thing?” His curiosity is
satisfied by close acquaintance with and observation of the endearing bird.
By
the end of his bittersweet book My Fine Feathered Friend
<http://www.upc-online.org/021009fine_feathered.html>, he and his wife Nancy
“had grown to love the Chicken.”

We have to start looking at chickens differently, so that we may see them as
Alice Walker described her encounter with a hen she watched crossing the
road
one day with three little chicks in Bali. In her essay, “Why Did the
Balinese
Chicken Cross the Road?” in Living By the Word
<http://alicewalkersgarden.com/2010/10/living-by-the-word/>, Walker writes:

It is one of those moments that will be engraved on my brain forever. For
I
really *saw* her. She was small and gray, flecked with black; so were her
chicks. She had a healthy red comb and quick, light-brown eyes. She was
that
proud, chunky chicken shape that makes one feel always that chickens, and
hens
especially, have personality and *will*. Her steps were neat and quick and
authoritative; and though she never touched her chicks, it was obvious
she was
shepherding them along. She clucked impatiently when, our feet falling
ever
nearer, one of them, especially self-absorbed and perhaps hard-headed,
ceased
to respond.

Let us with equal justice perceive chickens with envisioned eyes that
pierce the
veil of these birds’ “mechanization” and apprehend the truth of who they
are. In
*The Chicken Book*, Page Smith and Charles Daniel remind us, most
poignantly: “As
each chick emerges from its shell in the dark cave of feathers underneath
its
mother, it lies for a time like any newborn creature, exhausted, naked, and
extremely vulnerable. And as the mother may be taken as the epitome of
motherhood, so the newborn chick may be taken as an archetypal
representative of
babies of all species, human and animal alike, just brought into the world.”

This is What Wings Are For.

__________________________

KAREN DAVIS, PhD <http://www.upc-online.org/karenbio.htm> is the President
and Founder of United Poultry Concerns, a
nonprofit organization that promotes the compassionate and respectful
treatment
of domestic fowl including a sanctuary for chickens in Virginia. She is the
author of Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs: An Inside Look at the Modern
Poultry
Industry, More Than a Meal: The Turkey in History, Myth, Ritual, and
Reality,
The Holocaust and the Henmaid’s Tale: A Case for Comparing Atrocities and
other
groundbreaking publications.


United Poultry Concerns is a nonprofit organization that promotes
the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl.
Don’t just switch from beef to chicken. Go Vegan.
http://www.UPC-online.org/ http://www.twitter.com/upcnews

Prayer Circle for Animals #371: International Respect for Chickens

April 23, 2018

*Please Join Us For Our Daily Noon Prayer*

“COMPASSION ENCIRCLES THE EARTH FOR ALL BEINGS EVERYWHERE”

And Our Prayer for the Week from Judy Carman

*MAY 4 IS INTERNATIONAL RESPECT FOR CHICKENS DAY; ALL OF MAY IS THEIR
SPECIAL*
*MONTH*. Let’s get ready. This event was introduced by United Poultry
Concerns in
2005 “to celebrate chickens throughout the world and protest the bleakness
of
their lives in farming operations.” UPC suggests many possible actions we
can
take, as well as posters and handouts to order, on the website. This Sikh
story
brings home the truth that chickens are precious individuals who love life
just
as we do. “A man was once given a chicken by his guru and told to go and
kill it
[him or her] where nobody could see. The man tried and tried to find a place
where he could kill the chicken without anybody’s seeing and finally gave
up and
went back to the guru. ‘Why couldn’t you find a place where nobody would
see you
kill the chicken?’ asked the guru. ‘Because everywhere I went, the chicken
saw,’
said the man.” (From *How to Think if You Want to Change the World*, p. 138)

*OUR PRAYER THIS WEEK IS FOR ALL CHICKENS TO BE RESPECTED FOR WHO THEY ARE
AND TO*
*BE LIBERATED FROM HUMAN VIOLENCE AND DOMINATION:* We give thanks for United
Poultry Concerns and all the activists who have worked tirelessly for years
to
show the world that chickens are amazing, courageous, beautiful and loving
beings. We give thanks for all the information we have now to help us
educate
pre-vegans. We ask for blessings of peace for every single individual among
the
billions who are being killed. For while the killing machines grind on, we
know
that each precious chicken has lost friends, children, mothers, and suffered
terrible pain and heartache. We honor and memorialize them all—the fallen.
And
we pray for strength, clarity and inner peace, that we may stand in
solidarity
with them as long as it takes to win their freedom from human violence at
last.
And as our tears fall for them, may we also feel that spiritual joy that
comes
from being awakened to our very real kinship with chickens. What a blessing
it
is to know that they are our friends, not our food. Help us to be love and
to
bring love to all people and all beings. As always, I send my thanks to
each of
you, dear Prayer Circle members, for joining this circle of compassion and
shining the Light of Truth for all to see, so that one day soon, all beings
will
be free.

*May compassion and love reign over all the earth for all beings
everywhere.*
*Thank you all for your devotion to truth, love, liberation and peace for
all*
*beings.*

With Love, peace, and gratitude from Judy Carman, and greetings from Will,
Madeleine, and the Circle of Compassion team.

*PLEASE SHARE* this prayer by going to the Prayer Circle for Animals
Facebook <https://www.facebook.com/groups/prayercircleforanimals/>.
This prayer is posted there. You can also share ideas and prayer requests on
that facebook.

*PLEASE VISIT* the Circle of Compassion website
<http://circleofcompassion.org> for “A prayer a day for animals;”
and the Daily Noon Prayer. To help expand this ministry, donations are
gratefully accepted.


United Poultry Concerns is a nonprofit organization that promotes
the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl.
Don’t just switch from beef to chicken. Go Vegan.
http://www.UPC-online.org/ http://www.twitter.com/upcnews
http://www.facebook.com/UnitedPoultryConcerns

View this article online
<http://upc-online.org/respect/180428_prayer_circle_for_animals_371.html

For the Love of Chickens in Honor of International Respect for Chickens Day

By Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns*

I Know Just How Incredible Chickens Are: I’ve Spent More Than Thirty Years
Getting to Know Them

“The poultry industry represents chickens as mentally vacuous, eviscerated
organisms. Hens bred for egg production are said to be suited to a cage,
with no
need for personal space or normal foraging and social activity. They are
characterized as aggressors who, notwithstanding their proclaimed passivity
and
affinity for cages, cannot live together without first having a portion of
their
sensitive beaks burned off-otherwise, it is said, they will tear each other
up.
Similarly, the instinct to tend and fuss over her eggs and be a mother has
been
rooted out of these hens (so it is claimed), and the idea of one’s having a
social relationship with such hens is dismissed as silly sentimentalism. .
. .”

Read Karen’s article: I Know Just How Incredible Chickens Are: I’ve Spent
More
<https://www.alternet.org/animal-rights/love-chickens-honor-international-respect-chickens-day>
Than Thirty Years Getting to Know Them
<https://www.alternet.org/animal-rights/love-chickens-honor-international-respect-chickens-day>
.

Please do an ACTION for:
International Respect for Chickens Day May 4/Month of May
<http://www.upc-online.org/respect/>


United Poultry Concerns is a nonprofit organization that promotes
the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl.
Don’t just switch from beef to chicken. Go Vegan.
http://www.UPC-online.org/ http://www.twitter.com/upcnews
http://www.facebook.com/UnitedPoultryConcerns

View this article online
<http://upc-online.org/respect/180427_for_the_love_of_chickens.html>

Egg Industry Ballot Measures Seek to Legalize Battery Cages in California

https://stoptherottenegginitiative.org/

Vote NO on Proposition (TBA)

“This initiative should be fiercely opposed by everyone who cares about farm animal suffering. HSUS’s collusion with the egg industry is disturbing. From legalizing battery cages to allowing as little as one square foot of space per hen — this initiative would be a disaster for millions of egg-laying hens who would still be left suffering in battery cages throughout California.”

— Friends of Animals (FoA)
Email Address*

Egg Industry Ballot Measures Seek to Legalize Battery Cages in California

The United Egg Producers and the Association of California Egg Farmers are each pushing measures for 2018 that would explicitly legalize battery cages throughout California.

In nearly identical measures, these industry trade associations are attempting to repeal California’s present hen-housing law which was overwhelmingly approved by voters 10 years ago. That law, though not without issues, states that egg-laying hens must be given enough space to be able to “fully spread both wings without touching the side of an enclosure or other egg-laying hens.”

The industry’s measures would repeal that — and replace it with language that explicitly legalizes battery cages throughout the state. And regardless of whether the hens are in cages or in horrific multi-level “cage-free” factory systems, the industry needs only to provide hens with one square foot of space per hen. For political cover, the United Egg Producers (UEP) is relying upon the co-opted Humane Society of the United States and tag-alongs who are gathering signatures to put the egg industry’s toxic measure on the ballot.

Read more >

Classroom Chick-Hatching Projects Teach Bad Lessons

*”Ethical questions are raised when unwanted animals are brought into
this*
* world, diminishing our sense of the inherent value of the living
creature. The*
* positive lesson that can come from observing and respecting normal
parenting*
* of adult birds for their future offspring is lost. In these school
hatching*
* projects, any sense of parent birds carefully preparing nests and
tending*
* their future babies is lost because the eggs are hatched in a piece of*
* equipment. The surviving chicks are usually doomed to a life expectancy
of a*
* few days spent miserably. Young birds need nurturing and rest. They are*
* difficult to feed in the classroom and can suffer starvation and
dehydration*
* that is not even noticed.” *
– Dr. F. Barbara Orlans, Senior Research Fellow, Kennedy Institute of
Ethics,
Georgetown University, Washington, DC

On April 18, United Poultry Concerns received an email exchange between the
mother of a young child and his teacher in Maryland. Learning the teacher is
hatching “intentionally orphaned babies” in her son’s classroom, she
implored
the teacher and the principal:

*”As a mother myself, I feel pain for these chicks and their mothers who
are*
* separated to become an experiment for school children. I would encourage
you*
* not to hatch chicks and instead have a conversation with the children
about*
* why it is important for animals to be treated with kindness and respect
for*
* their families.”*

The teacher responded dismissively about teachers “hosting” the motherless
chicks in these projects:

*”Thank you for reaching out. I understand your concerns. To answer some
of*
* your questions, please view the program website: RentACoop
<https://www.rentacoop.com/about/>. I’ve shared some*
* of your questions, and I’ve had positive discussions with teachers who
have*
* hosted chicks in their classroom in years past. I hope this information
helps.”*

______________

*What Can I Do?*

If you have a child or know of children whose teacher, school or school
district
is planning to hatch chicks, ducklings or other birds in mechanical
incubators,
please object. These projects abuse animals and take advantage of children’s
ignorance. Please read and share our information with educators and parents.
Schools are more sensitive to parental criticisms than to other sources of
criticism. Parent-teacher meetings provide opportunities to publicize this
issue
and enlist parental support to end these projects in favor of humane
education.

For more information please visit:
Hatching Good Lessons: Alternatives To School Hatching Projects
<http://www.upc-online.org/hatching/alternatives.html>

*A Home for Henny*

Melanie is a 3rd grader who is excited about a chick hatching project in her
class at school. The project seemed like a good idea at first, but
unexpected
problems arise and the whole class learns a lesson in compassion. When the
project is over, Melanie adopts one of the chicks she names Henny. A Home
for
Henny explores the challenges and concerns with school hatching projects
while
evoking the lively personality of Henny and her loving relationship with
Melanie. Grades K-4

Do you have elementary school-age children at home? Nieces or Nephews?
Friends
with children? *A Home for Henny* is the perfect story to teach children
compassion for chickens and why chick-hatching programs don’t belong in our
schools. Donate a copy (or several!) to your local elementary schools and
the
children’s section of your local libraries.

A Home for Henny
$6.99 – Single copy
$15.00 – Five copies

Order online:
A Home for Henny
<http://www.upc-online.org/merchandise/humane_child.html#home_for_henny>

*Learn more: *
Rent-a-Chicken Business
<http://www.upc-online.org/backyard/170517_rent-a-chicken_business_and_backyard_chickens.html>


United Poultry Concerns is a nonprofit organization that promotes
the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl.
Don’t just switch from beef to chicken. Go Vegan.
http://www.UPC-online.org/ http://www.twitter.com/upcnews
http://www.facebook.com/UnitedPoultryConcerns

View this article online
<http://upc-online.org/hatching/180419_classroom_chick-hatching_projects_teach_bad_lessons.html

Critical Animal Studies: Towards Trans-Species Social Justice

*Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns*

This new book of challenging essays by scholars and activists includes my
analysis of “The Disengagement of Journalistic Discourse about Nonhuman
Animals,” published online as Disengaged Journalism & The Disparagement &
<http://www.upc-online.org/alerts/171201_disengaged_journalism_and_the_disparagement_and_disappearance_of_animals.html>
Disappearance of Animals
<http://www.upc-online.org/alerts/171201_disengaged_journalism_and_the_disparagement_and_disappearance_of_animals.html>.
The book’s Introduction provides the following
synopsis of my chapter to which I’ve taken the liberty of incorporating some
modifications of my own for emphasis:

Prominent activist Karen Davis draws on her long experience of defending
animal rights to consider how animals and animal rights issues have been
represented in mainstream media. In spite of the fact that mainstream
journalism has given more attention in recent years to these spaces of
violent
abuse, Davis notes, “In my 30-plus years in the animal advocacy movement
there
has been virtually no analysis or critique of the coverage given to farmed
animals by the mainstream media.”

Karen’s analysis demonstrates that a particular type of ethical blindness
persists in which exploitation and violence are, paradoxically, “visible,
yet
unperceived.” In a model of engaged scholarship, Davis exposes the
tactical
and rhetorical strategies that are used in media coverage of animal
issues,
such as the use of euphemisms like “humane” and “euthanasia” to describe
brutal and sordid violence in the service of profit. *She notes the
shallow*
* criticisms of specific abuses that exist together with a ready
endorsement of*
* the broad system in which all these cruelties are conducted*. She argues
that
what some animal advocates consider strong critiques of animal abuse
actually
operate to leave readers powerless and ineffective.

For example, even in cases where cruelties are noted, a jokey style that
comments on how “tasty” animals are serves to undermine any real critique
and
to condone the system that allows those cruelties to occur. [*New York
Times*
columnists Nicholas Kristof and Mark Bittman epitomize this method of
jokey
disengagement toward farmed animals, always reassuring readers that no
matter
how much the animals suffer, “we” love our hamburgers and chicken nuggets
far
more than we care about them.]

Citing a number of cases, Davis analyzes how these rhetorical practices
operate not only in media reports but also in other types of texts and
act to
depoliticize animal abuse, disempower activists, and reinforce mainstream
complacency. Within this model of analysis, liberal opinion – in this
case, a
flaccid concern for “humane treatment” linked with fawning plugs for
“conscientious” omnivorism – plays an important gatekeeper role in
maintaining
the system, as it acts to constitute the outer limits of acceptable ideas
and
attitudes.

___________________

Please join our campaign against the outer limits of “acceptable” ideas and
attitudes! Open the floodgates!

*International Respect for Chickens Day May 4 *

*Please do an ACTION for Chickens in May!*
<http://upc-online.org/respect/180404_please_do_an_action_for_chickens_in_may.html>

*Stick Up For Chickens!*


United Poultry Concerns is a nonprofit organization that promotes
the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl.
Don’t just switch from beef to chicken. Go Vegan.
http://www.UPC-online.org/ http://www.twitter.com/upcnews
http://www.facebook.com/UnitedPoultryConcerns

View this article online
<http://upc-online.org/bookreviews/180417_critical_animal_studies-towards_trans-species_social_justice.html

Should Farm Animals Be Genetically Modified to Remove Their Capacity to Feel Pain?

Creating a “brainless chicken” opens up serious ethical questions.

Photo Credit: Oleksandr Lytvynenko/Shutterstock

On March 6, 2018, the University of Oxford announced that a student named Jonathan Latimer was awarded a prize in Practical Ethics for his essay, “Why We Should Genetically ‘Disenhance’ Animals Used in Factory Farms.” Describing disenhancement as “a genetic modification that removes an animal’s capacity to feel pain,” Latimer defends the process by arguing that “disenhancement will significantly increase the quality of life for animals in factory farms.”

Chickens, in particular, have been singled out for various forms of disenhancement over the years. In the early 1990s, engineer Robert Burruss predicted in “The Future of Eggs” in The Baltimore Sun that the future of chicken and egg production would come to resemble “industrial-scale versions of the heart-lung machines that brain-dead human beings need a court order to get unplugged from.” He envisioned this future through the lens of industrialized chickens’ “bleak lives.”

Chick being debeaked. (image: United Poultry Concerns)

In 1981, James V. Craig, a poultry researcher, dismissed what he called the “emotion-laden word ‘mutilation'” to describe “husbandry practices such as removing a portion of a hen’s beak.” Removal of certain bodily structures, although causing temporary pain to individuals, he wrote, “can be of much benefit to the welfare of the group”—the “group” in question being hens in battery-cages with no outlet for their natural pecking activities. (Domestic Animal Behavior, pp. 243-244)

Agribusiness philosopher Paul Thompson airily opined that if blind chickens “don’t mind” being crowded together as much as chickens who can see, it would “improve animal welfare” to breed blind chickens. (Paul B. Thompson, “Welfare as an Ethical Issue: Are Blind Chickens the Answer?” in Bioethics Symposium, USDA, Jan. 23, 2007)

Likewise, a breeder of featherless chickens claimed “welfare” advantages for naked chickens on factory farms, even though feathers protect the birds’ delicate skin from injuries and infections, which is all the more necessary in environments that are thick with pollution and fecal-soaked floors. Even de-winging has been defended as a “welfare” measure if winglessness would give hens more space in their cages. (In reality, more space in the cages would simply mean more hens per cage, and experimental removal of wings in chickens and turkeys has revealed that when the birds fall over, they cannot get back up without their wings for balance.)

White hens in tree. (UPC sanctuary photo by Susan Rayfield)

Which brings us to the case for genetically desensitizing chickens. What if the elements of memory, sensation and emotion could be expunged, and a brainless chicken constructed? Asked if he would consider it ethical to engineer not only a wingless bird but a “brainless bird,” philosopher Peter Singer said he would consider it “an ethical improvement on the present system, because it would eliminate the suffering that these birds are feeling.”

But would it? In the U.K., an architecture student named Andre Ford proposed what he called the “Headless Chicken Solution.” Removal of the chicken’s cerebral cortex, he said, would inhibit the bird’s sensory perceptions so that chickens could be mass-produced unaware of themselves or their situation. Like Singer, Ford equates removing the chicken’s brain with the “removal of suffering.”

I reject the idea that destroying an animal’s ability to experience pain or other forms of consciousness in order to fit the animal into an abusive system is an ethical solution to the suffering engendered by that system. For one thing, suffering involves more than the ability to feel pain. Suffering refers to a wound, injury, trauma or harm sustained by a sentient being, whether or not the harm is experienced as pain per se. For example, a brain concussion or a malignant tumor may not be consciously experienced until the disease has progressed.

To de-brain and otherwise amputate and obliterate parts of an animal’s very self for the purpose of adapting the animal to a morally indefensible system, and then seek to justify the excision as a welfare benefit, represents an ultimate lack of respect for the victim of an enterprise that few would embrace if, instead of chickens or other nonhumans, the “beneficiaries” were human. A further point to consider is the likely survival of memory in the mutilated individual of who he or she was before the mutilation, similar to phantom limb pain.

The neurologist Oliver Sacks described the persistence of what he called “emotional memory” in people suffering from amnesia who have lost their ability to connect and recall the daily events of their contemporary lives, but who nevertheless retain “deep emotional memories or associations … in the limbic system and other regions of the brain where memories are represented.”

Hens on the run. (UPC sanctuary photo by Davida G. Breier)

The consciousness of other animals including birds is similarly rooted in and shaped by emotional memory. Birds possess regions of the brain that give rise to experience in much the same way as the human cerebral cortex. Scientists cite neurological evidence that the amputated stump of a debeaked bird retains a “memory” of the missing beak part even after healing has occurred. They cite the persistence of “ancestral memories” in factory-farmed chickens who, though they have never felt the ground under their feet before, show the same drive, given the chance, to forage in the soil that motivates their jungle-fowl relatives. [For more on this, see the book Through Our Eyes Only?: The Search for Animal Consciousness]

Perhaps these deeply-structured memory formations and ineffable networks of knowledge in a factory-farmed chicken give rise to “phantom limbic memories”—to subjective, embodied experiences in which even dismembered and mutilated body parts awaken a distant memory of who he or she really is, or was. If this is true, are such memories of essential identity experienced as a compensation or a curse? We’ve become accustomed, through the environmental movement, to think of species extinction as the worst fate that can befall a sentient organism. However, the ceaseless proliferation of selves in hell, forever unable to stop being born, is, in a way, worse.

The poultry industry boasts that the “technology built into buildings and equipment is embodied genetically into the chicken itself.” Taking this embodiment to the ultimate extreme of destroying the very being of a bird for “better welfare,” and linking the destruction with “significantly increased quality of life,” accords with the agribusiness view of animals as mere raw material to be manipulated at will. Disenhancement will never eliminate the suffering of chickens or reduce our relentless mistreatment of them. A whole different approach to our fellow creatures is required to stop the injustice and take away the pain.

Karen Davis is the president and founder of United Poultry Concerns, a nonprofit organization that promotes the compassionate treatment of domestic fowl. She is the author of Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs: An Inside Look at the Modern Poultry Industry and The Holocaust and the Henmaid’s Tale: A Case for Comparing Atrocities.