Chickens can feel empathy and are an emotional animal. Why is it that so many people feel emotional disconnection from chickens and have complex attitudes about them?
Language is important
Our relationship with animals is complicated. There are many factors that influence our attitudes and how they are treated. Our attitudes toward animals can be affected by how they are labeled. Animals labelled as pets are often given more moral consideration than animals labelled food animals.
This is why we place constraints on how we see chickens and other farm animals (Serpell 2004).
Researchers have found that people rate animals’ intelligence and ‘love-ness’ differently to mammals like sheep and pigs.
These results indicate that people value ‘food animals’ less than non-mammalian ones (Driscoll 1995).
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How about chickens?
Consumers often avoid emotional or cognitive connections with animals in the agriculture industry (Schroder and al., 2004). Some people find it easier to see chickens as ‘inintelligent’ or “incapable to feeling” to help them overcome the moral dilemmas often associated with poor animal welfare in the agriculture industry. Cognitive dissonance is something that all people experience to some extent, and not only in relation to food.
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Can attitudes change?
They can. In one study, students were asked to rate their attitudes before and after spending time with chicken trainers. The results showed that students’ intelligence and ability to feel emotions were higher after they had spent time training chickens (Hazel and colleagues, 2011).
Millions of chickens are raised each year for their meat, often in cruel conditions. Chickens can be harmed and should be treated with compassion.
Sweda Farm is a high-welfare farm in Canada that feeds chickens
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What you can do
It is crucial to research the meat you are buying and make sure it is high welfare. Do your best to change it if it isn’t.
You can help improve the lives of chickens by taking action through our Change for Chickens campaign.