You can’t blink or you will miss it. It’s in the first line of this article called ”Farming the Unconscious” posted on We Make Money Not Art.” You don’t even know to be looking for it.
The “it” I refer to is the fact that the project discussed in the article comes from the Royal College of Art. Not agriculture. Not livestock. Art. This is relevant because it throws into question whether or not the entire project was created as an earnest attempt to solve a problem, or as a commentary on modern animal husbandry practices.
I encourage you to read the article. The images alone are quite impactful. The jist of it is this: Most people understand that the factory farming methods applied to chickens are largely believed to be inhumane. The birds have been bred over time to reach physical maturity in about six weeks. This rapid growth cycle is often too much for the cardio-pulmonary systems of the birds to withstand and many of them die before they can be slaughtered. On top of the questionable breeding they are housed in huge, windowless, poorly ventilated barns with little-to-no room for movement, standing on a bed of their own feces, and reduced to cannibalizing each other out of boredom. Seriously, it’s pretty disturbing.
But more disturbing still is student André Ford’s proposed solution.
He suggests that if the demand for poultry is such that we must be able to produce it on a mass scale, then why continue to raise chickens when we could just grow them? Yes. Grow. Like a crop. It is (apparently…) the logical extension of Purdue University professor Paul Thompson’s belief that raising more tolerant blind chickens we could circumvent many of the animal welfare problems plaguing the egg and poultry industry today. If they are blind they won’t object as much to the conditions in which they live. So why not take it a step further, render them fully unconscious, and house them in the most economic conditions possible? While the chicken isn’t technically headless, it is effectively brainless. To quote Ford explanation of the project:
As long as their brain stem is intact, the homeostatic functions of the chicken will continue to operate. By removing the cerebral cortex of the chicken, its sensory perceptions are removed. It can be produced in a denser condition while remaining alive, and oblivious. The feet will also be removed so the body of the chicken can be packed together in a dense volume. Food, water and air are delivered via an arterial network and excreta is removed in the same manner. Around 1000 chickens will be packed into each ‘leaf’, which forms part of a moving, productive system.
- A collection of posts related to my month-long vegetarian experiment in 2010:
- On Roast Chicken and Moral Failings
- A Carnivore’s Conscience