WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — It was a crisp October day at Farm Sanctuary, and inside the Small, red barn the The chickens were never content.
One or two roosters yodeled out of sight. An enormous turkey, a bruiser, strutted through an opening door with its tail feathers spread out like an ornamental fan. A penned flock white-feathered chickens made tiny, intermittent squeaks and emitted an asynchronous symphony if chicken sneezes.
Sasha Prasad Shreckengast said that the hens were experiencing an acute flare-up of chronic respiratory conditions. the sanctuary’s manager of research and animal welfare, who was preparing to enter the chicken pen. She put on gloves and shoes covers and slipped into a pair blue scrubs. the The first to approach the hen.
“Who are you?” She cooed.
Ms. Prasad-Shreckengast meant the It was a literal question. She was trying find the birds that were enrolled in her study: an investigation into whether chickens — animals not often heralded for their brainpower — enjoy learning.
However, her question was also the Driving is a big philosophical one the A new research team in-house Farm SanctuaryThe non-profit organization ‘End Animal Agriculture’ has been working for more than 35 years.
They have a lot to do. for These are the only ones that exist in the United States. more than 90 million cattle There are more than 2,000 slaughters 9 billion chickens (and 200 million turkeys) per year. There are signs of a shift in society. According to a Gallup poll in 2019, nearly 70% of Americans believe that there is a shift in society. one in four Americans Their meat consumption had been reduced, they claimed. Two piglets were taken from a factory farm by activists, who were recently cleared by a jury. Fast-food giants add faux meat to their menu. the Last week’s menu the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the Green light for lab-grown chicken
A growing body of research shows that chickens are smarter than other farmed animals. can anticipate the future, The goats look great! solicit help from humans, and pigs might pick up on one another’s emotions.
However, scientists still know a lot less than they used to. the Christian Nawroth is a scientist who studies behavior and cognition in chickens, cows, and dogs. the Research Institute for Farm Animal Biology in Germany “I’m still baffled how little we know about farm animals, given the amount or the numbers that we keep,” He said.
Farm Sanctuary, founded in 1986, believes farm animals are sentient beings. This includes its four-legged and feathered residents. “people.”
“They have their own desires, and their own wants and preferences and needs, and their own inner lives — the same way that human people do,” Lauri Torgerson White the sanctuary’s director of research.
Now, the Sanctuary is trying to collect enough information to convince. the General public the Humanity and animals
“Our hope,” Ms. Torgerson-White said, “is that through utilizing really rigorous methodologies, we are able to uncover pieces of information about the inner lives of farmed animals that can be used to really change hearts and minds about how these animals are used by society.”
The sanctuary is currently conducting the Research must be conducted in compliance with its own strict ethical standards. This includes giving the Animals the You have the right to decide whether you want to take part in studies. Consequently, the Sometimes researchers find themselves at the mercy of their own research. the They want to prove that animals are intelligent.
Today, the Birds in “West Chicken” This seemed a little understated the weather. Ms. Prasad–Shreckengast crossed her fingers, hoping that some of them would still be up for A brief demonstration.
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“Hopefully,” She stated, “people will be feeling like — chicken people will be feeling like — they’re eager and interested in participating.”
‘Somebody, not something’
Farm Sanctuary was not originally intended to be a home. for Together with young activists, they rescued animals and worked to expose cruelty at farms, slaughterhouses, and stockyards.
“We lived in a school bus on a tofu farm for a couple of years,” Gene Baur the Co-founder and president of the organization. However, in the course of their investigations. the Group kept on stumbling. “living animals left for dead,” He recalled. “And so we started rescuing them.”
They opened sanctuaries in New York City and California and established educational programs as well as political advocacy campaigns. They also sold veggie hot dogs at Grateful Death concerts to raise money.
In 2020 the About 700 animals are now housed at the organization. In order to better understand these animals, an internal research team was formed. As Mr. Baur explained, the objective was to collect more evidence. “these animals are more than just pieces of meat. There’s emotion there. There is individual personality there. There’s somebody, not something.”
Lori Gruen, an animal ethicsist at Wesleyan University worked with the research team in order to develop a set if ethics guidelines. Dr. Gruen explained that the goal was to develop a framework. for Conducting animal research “without dominance, without control, without instrumentalization.”
Other stipulations include the guidelines prohibit invasive procedures — forbidding even blood draws unless they are medically necessary — and state that the studies must benefit the animals. Participation? It’s voluntary.
“Residents must be recognized as persons,” the guidelines state, “and always be provided with choice and control over their participation in an experimental study.”
This idea isn’t new. The Zoo animals for For example, they are often taught to work together in their health care and in any research that may be related. These practices are far from commonplace. the norm.
For the Farm Sanctuary researchers believed that voluntary participation was an ethical imperative and a pathway to better science. Many prior studies have been conducted on farms or in laboratories, settings in which stress or fear might affect animals’ behavior or even impair their cognitive performance, the Researchers note.
“Our hope is that they’re able to tell us more about what the upper limits are for their cognition and emotional capacities and social structures because of the environment that they’re in and because of the way we are performing the research,” Ms. Torgerson-White said.
However the Approach is unusual, described by outside scientists the sanctuary’s ethical guidelines as admirable and its research questions as interesting.
“The idea that you could study these species, who are usually only studied in sort of pseudofarm conditions, in more naturalistic environments that actually meet not just their needs but even their most arcane preferences — I think they’re right,” Georgia Mason, who is the director of this project, said: the Campbell Center for the Animal Welfare Research the University of Guelph “I think that really allows you to do something special.”
Placing a wing up
Researchers chose to start with a study. the Chicken is a much-maligned product. the birds’ emotional response to learning. “We call it ‘The Joys of Learning,’ but we don’t know that for sure, that they’re going to experience joy,” Ms. Torgerson-White said. “That’s our hypothesis.”
To Ms. Prasad Shreckengast and Jenna Holakovsky were slow to find avian volunteers. Last fall, they started by sitting down for a few days. the Before opening, chicken pen the door to the Hallway the Eventually, experimentation would occur.
They added elements of the experimental infrastructure — a window screen, a piece of plywood — and doling out food pellets to any birds brave enough to approach. They were finally successful after three weeks. the Complete experimental arena was set up, and 13 birds chose to enter it regularly. They became their volunteer chicken corps.
The researchers offered some of these chickens an opportunity to learn something new — how to knock a lid off a bowl — and assessed their overall emotional states, using what is known as a judgment bias test. There have been many variations of this test. It measured how fast the chickens could move. the Chickens approached a mysterious container and its unknow contents.
It was believed that chickens in positive moods would be more inclined to assume this behavior. the If bowl contained food, it would be more likely that the bowl would move faster than a down in-the-dumps.theYou would eat a lot of chicken if you didn’t.
So far the Researchers tested eight chickens. Half of them were not in the test. the Control group and it is It’s too early to draw solid conclusions about chickenkind. (After one bird died and another failed to survive, the original recruits were reduced. the study criteria, and three others dropped out — in one case, to spend time in the Instead, use a nest box. “I think she really just was highly motivated to sit on some eggs,” Ms. Prasad-Shreckengast said.)
But the Initial data suggests that learning did indeed increase the Some of the moods the birds. (Here’s looking at you, Shirley and Murielle.)
Yoshi was the next, and he tried to bypass. the Learning is a challenge in itself. Instead of just completing the task for Her reward was that she went straight for the Food, trying to jump over the Intervalling window screen Yoshi was able to finish the task, however. the She did not seem to enjoy the task. the experience. Ms. Torgerson White stated that she found it frustrating. “She knows how to jump over screens, so why did she need to perform this task?”
In the beginning, researchers were disappointed. the result, but they were also charmed by Yoshi’s intransigence, viewing it as evidence of her individual personality.
Personality remains a challenging issue. Their study was limited to chickens who had raised their wings to volunteer. They might have enrolled a group of birds that were unusually bold, which could have affected their results.. So the Researchers may now conduct personality assessments. the Study with more birds
“Can they work out protocols to get all the chickens so calm and used to them that all the chickens volunteer?” Dr. Mason wondered. “Then their problem is solved.”
The researchers are also investigating whether farmed animals can develop symptoms akin to post-traumatic stress disorder — and, if so, whether spending time in a sanctuary helps them heal.
“As a part of a normal life of a farmed animal, honestly, almost no matter the species, they are undergoing or experiencing the types of trauma that human psychologists use to diagnose PTSD,” Ms. Torgerson-White said.
Some of these the sanctuary’s residents have escaped from slaughterhouses Oder suffered serious injuries on farmsScientists and doctors have confirmed that PTSD symptoms are similar to those experienced by PTSD patients. elephants And chimpanzees Experiencing violence or abuse.
“If PTSD exists in humans, then clearly it will exist in other species as well,” Donald Broom, an emeritus professor in animal welfare at the University of Wisconsin, said: the University of Cambridge “So to look into that would be an interesting thing to do.”
The study is mostly observational and includes careful analysis. the Behavior of new residents such as Bella, a Holstein that arrived at the After Buck, her companion, died, Buck was placed in shelter. But the Team is also measured the animals’ cortisol levels, inviting residents to cough up some saliva samples.
Robbie and Lizzie are a bonded pig couple with bristly hairs and a fondness for each other for mouthing visitors’ shoelaces, were absolute champs, happily slobbering all over the Procurement of large cotton swabs the scientists. But HayesA steer with extremely fuzzy ears showed no interest in eating. the Swabs are not permitted, even when the Researchers attempted to sweeten the Molasses is a good choice.
“He had just gotten access to pasture for the first time in his life, and nothing, not even molasses, was more interesting or exciting than grazing,” Ms. Prasad Shreckengast, whom Hayes nuzzled lovingly when she stopped by, said this. the pasture.
Some of their studies might not work out. the Researchers acknowledged that their methods are still in development. There are clear areas. for Improvement: They didn’t conduct the chicken study “blind,” They knew which chickens were in the house, which is a sign that they had a good knowledge of their surroundings. the Which were in the control group, and which weren’t. As a consequence, the Researchers may have been unconsciously influenced the birds’ behavior, especially if they were hoping for You will get a particular result.
“We did our best to avoid unintentional cuing by remaining still, keeping our heads down and stepping away from the testing arena when possible,” Ms. Prasad-Shreckengast said. She acknowledged that she was sorry. “We recognize this is a limitation of our study design and plan to address it in our eventual manuscript.”
The researchers might be open and honest about their values and mission but Dr. Gruen is not the only one who brings a perspective to their work. the Notably, an animal ethicist. Many biomedical scientists have done their calculations. the The possibility of alleviating suffering is greater than the risk the Lab animals suffer the same suffering. “Values enter into scientific practice at every level,” Dr. Gruen said. “I don’t think it’s unusual that the values are there — I think it’s unusual that those values are there.”
The sanctuary stated that it would publish its results regardless of their content. An advisory committee of six experts was also formed to review the research proposals. the Researches are both scientifically and ethically sound.
“To be ethical,” Becca Franks, a New York University animal welfare scientist and member of the committee, “to spend people’s time and energy and money on this and engage with the animals, the science also has to be good science.”
Take small steps
With financial support from the Financial Aid Board, the researchers are expanding their PTSD research to include animals who live on farm sanctuaries. the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was also funded for the chicken study. Next year the Researchers are hoping to investigate aspects of animal breeding and culture. the Turkeys have a very emotional life. They are also eager to spread the word. the Their ethics guidelines are available for other animal researchers.
“If they can show this model works, I think that could really motivate more people to try it,” Dr. Mason spoke.
However the Sanctuary wants to end animal farming, but other scientists see this type of research as a way to improve. the system. If chickens are interested in learning, for Dr. Broom suggested that poultry farmers give their birds the opportunity to do so.
“I’m not against the use of animals for a variety of purposes,” He said. “But I’m very strongly in favor of providing for needs in such a way that the welfare of each individual animal is good.”
How can you? the sanctuary’s staff members feel if their work is used to tweak, rather than eliminate, the Do you have an existing system? “If we can lessen the suffering of animals in the near term, I think that is positive,” Mr. Baur spoke. “However, we don’t want to further entrench the idea that these animals are here for us to be exploiting.”
Ms. Torgerson White acknowledged that changing public attitudes and societal practice is a long-term endeavor. However, she and her coworkers are working to move it along. the Watkins Glen is home to pastures. the Animals are people. the Residents are not scientific subjects. They are research partners.
“We’re not extracting information or knowledge from them,” Ms. Prasad-Shreckengast said. “Together, we’re learning, and they’re teaching us what they want and what they’re capable of.”