A recent study concludes domestic chickens display signs of empathy — the act of understanding and entering into another’s feelings.
These findings are particularly significant in view of the deeply criminal treatment animals receive on factory farms daily, which has been exposed in numerous published accounts and films like Farm to Fridge, narrated by actor James Cromwell.
Empathy most probably evolved to facilitate parental care, so the current study assessed whether birds responded to an aversive stimulus directed at their chicks, said the report’s authors.
Mothers of baby chicks displayed signs of stress when their chicks were exposed to intermittent puffs of air. The mother hens tested became increasingly alert, their eye temperature lowered, their heart rate increased, and they directed more clucking noises at their chicks, even though chicks produced few distress vocalizations.
The extent to which animals are affected by the distress of [others] is of high relevance to the welfare of farm and laboratory animals. It can therefore be concluded that adult female birds possess at least one of the essential underpinning attributes of ‘empathy’: the ability to be affected by, and share, the emotional state of another, said the researchers.
US hatchery companies produce 200 million female chicks and 200 million male chicks annually, but the unwanted male chicks are ground up alive in a meat grinder. This horridly inhumane practice is called “Instantaneous Euthanasia” — and is an industry wide standard that’s supported by the animal veterinary and scientific community, as well as the American Veterinary Medical Association.
“Given that the nervous system of a chicken originates during the 21st hour of incubation, and that a chick has a fully developed nervous system at the time of hatching, it is reasonable to conclude, as a fact of neurophysiology, that the chicks are suffering extreme pain as they are being cut up by macerator blades,” says Dr. Karen Davis, the founder and president of United Poultry Concerns.
“Not a single federal law provides protection to farmed animals during their lives on factory farms—meaning that billions of these animals are subjected to abuses so extreme that meat, egg, and dairy producers could be jailed if they treated dogs or cats in the same manner, said Nathan Runkle, Mercy for Animals (MFA) Founder and Executive Director.
“Factory farming values profit over principle in the ever-increasing race to reduce costs and increase revenue. In the end, animals are left to pay the ultimate price—a life of extreme deprivation and suffering.”