The bizarre, fascinating habits of chickens  »

"Is it anthropomorphic to say that hens find life more or less interesting? I’m told that battery farming isn’t too bad because the chickens don’t know any better (and it’s not for long, anyhow); you can’t miss what you never knew existed - the convenient concept of tabula rasa again. I’m sorry, but I can spot a happy chicken a mile off. Anyone who ever lived with chickens about the place wouldn’t spout such rubbish."

This lovely, engaging essay is well worth reading. A professor in England writes about the habits and hierarchies of his chickens, addressing battery farms and humane treatment as well. As a vegan, most of the written pieces that are brought to my attention are about animal atrocities and big-picture thinking. It’s important to be aware of those things, it’s true. But it’s also good to remember why animals are awesome in their own right.

"If I’m working in the garden, the chickens come, sit on the wall and watch. If I’m chopping logs, the tamer ones have a disconcerting tendency to hop on to the chopping block looking for tasty woodlice. They follow me into the shed and back out into the garage, through the side gate, tripping me up every time I turn, all the while murmuring and clucking softly. I think they may be reassuring me so I don’t get spooked."

I know that keeping chickens isn’t a vegan thing to do, but you should still read this article. And then send it to your relatives. He approaches the philosophical issue of humane treatment very thoughtfully and gently, without taking himself too seriously.

"Their preferences are astoundingly obvious, so what possible excuse could there be for giving them any less? If they like greens, why give them pellets? If they like sunbathing, why pack them into a tiny, noisy, smelly place with no natural light? If, as I suspect, the answer is something to do with the "efficiency" of food production, then the notion of efficiency is horrible, incompetent, brutalised and brutalising, and it’s certainly not in the interests of chickens at all. And I’m not sure that our ethical notions are all that more advanced than chickens’."

Author Peter Lennox is “senior lecturer in spatial perception in artificial environments and director of the Signal Processing and Applications Group, University of Derby.”

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