The following letter from United Poultry Concerns president Karen
Davis appears in the October 22nd issue of FEEDSTUFFS: THE WEEKLY
NEWSPAPER FOR AGRIBUSINESS, p. 8.
Reader disputes researcher's views concerning domestic chickens
To the editor:
Speaking to poultry producers at the Midwest Poultry Federation's
recent annual convention in St. Paul, Minn. (Feedstuffs, 2 July, pp.
8, 15), Dr. Kenneth Anderson of North Carolina State University
reportedly told his audience that chickens "respond to their world in
an instinctive manner, not by cognitive recognition." However, this
claim conflicts with the avian science presented by Dr. Lesley Rogers
at a Farmed Animal Well-Being Conference that was held at the
University of California-Davis, June 28-29. Rogers is a Professor of
Neuroscience and Animal Behaviour at the University of New England,
NSW, and the author and coauthor of several books about animal
cognition including her book The Development of Brain and Behaviour
in the Chicken (1995).
At the UC-Davis conference, Rogers advocated "Changing Our Views
about the Domestic Chicken." Observing that science shows "the
cognitive demands of the hitherto underestimated chicken brain,"
Rogers said that "people need to see chickens as animals equivalent
to other creatures" and that "all the information shows that chickens
cannot be reduced to 'just my belief.'" Based on their complex memory
formations and demonstrated learning capabilities, chickens "should
not be in cages at all," Rogers told an audience of animal
scientists, producers, veterinarians, veterinary students, and animal
protectionists. "We need to make enormous changes that provide for
the cognitive needs of chickens, not just physical," Rogers said.
Rogers told the audience that "despite domestication, very little has
changed in the chicken's cognitive powers." Slides from her
laboratory illustrated the domestic chicken's ability to correctly
identify and distinguish among a range of objects, to locate objects
that have been removed from sight and to "tell that an object behind
an object is a whole object." These and other studies, she said,
reveal "the complexity of the chicken's cognition."
Transcripts will soon be available from the Association of
Veterinarians for Animal Rights, which sponsored the conference along
with Animal Place and United Poultry Concerns. In the meantime
Rogers' chapter, "Can a Brain Be Domesticated," in The Development of
Brain and Behaviour in the Chicken provides a succinct summary of the
cognitive science demonstrating" that birds have cognitive capacities
equivalent to those of mammals, even primates" (p. 217), and that
"the chicken is not an inferior species to be treated merely as a
food source" (p. 213).
Karen Davis, Ph.D.
United Poultry Concerns, Inc.
United Poultry Concerns, Inc.|
PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405-0150
(UPC Letter About Chickens in 10/22 Issue of FeedStuffs)