United Poultry Concerns October 27, 2001
UPC Letter About Chickens in 10/22 Issue of FeedStuffs
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.
Machipongo, Va.

United Poultry Concerns, Inc.
PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405-0150
FAX: 757-678-5070

(UPC Letter About Chickens in 10/22 Issue of FeedStuffs)

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