A conference of animal lovers had just heard how even chickens feel pleasure and have a life worth living.
Delegates had also adjusted to the uncomfortable information that 300 chickens are killed for food every second in America - and 90 million a year in New Zealand.
...While many animals were discussed at the conference, chickens featured large.
Dr Annie Potts, associate professor and co-director of the New Zealand Centre for Human-Animal Studies attached to Canterbury University, took delegates on a journey through the history of the domestic chicken, previously revered in various cultures but downgraded in more recent times to mere food and treated appallingly.
Chickens, she said, display tenderness, deception, altruism and grief and can even suffer from post-traumatic stress.
They endure negative emotions, such as fear, anxiety and boredom - along with intense joy and pleasure.
"They love dust-bathing ... they also love sunbathing and will stretch out their wings to the warmth of the sun's rays."
It was "intensely distressing" that the overwhelming majority of chickens lived in grossly abnormal and unrewarding environments, she said, and urged the conference not to forget about broiler chickens.
...Dr Balcombe, a vegan, spoke about a range of animals.
Sheep are much more perceptive than people think, he said, citing a study which showed they could recognise faces and remember 50 or so of their original flock two years later.
That showed they have an inner mental life; they have consciousness and awareness.
"They have a life that to them is precious."
...We need to think of animals as individuals, he said: "It's not just a gull - it's that gull."
The irony of Western society was that most people abhorred animal cruelty but then funded it at the local supermarket.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
I agree with everything everyone says here, but I'm also the first one to push through the buffet line. But it works the other way around too. Lost mountaineers in NZ snowstorms have talked about being stalked by flocks of keas (the cutest alpine parrots) waiting for death in order to scavenge their protein. It's not personal. The keas are aware we have a rich emotional life too, but you can't just leave all that rich protein just sitting there above snowline when the baby keas are hungry: