(My new posting schedule here at Ned’s Blog leaves Wednesdays open to any number of things, including updates to The Box with Skippy the Rabid Squirrel, The Door (of Shame, Blame and Brilliance) or, as in today’s case, a Wednesday Rewind. This column hasn’t appeared on the blog before and comes from 2002, when Carl’s Jr. was making a run at the highly coveted chicken nugget market. The ads, which were funny, also managed to ruffle some feathers…)
As you may have heard, Carl’s Jr.’s recent commercials are raising quite a flap among chicken advocates. As you may not have heard, there really is a group of people who work full-time advocating for the rights of chickens (Though, as far as I can tell, not a single member of this group is, indeed, an actual chicken.)
The ad in question is the one that shows a group of scientists examining a live hen as they search for its “nuggets,” which, for me at least, helped explain a few things about my last doctor’s visit. But members of United Poultry Concerns — a chicken advocacy group based in Virginia — don’t see it that way, and want to have the commercial pulled because they say the mock examination “caused the chicken undue stress.”
In a statement given to the Los Angeles Times, UPC president Karen Davis was quoted as saying, “There’s no question that the bright lights of filming, in combination with the numerous takes, would make the experience stressful for the chicken.”
Considering that the chicken in that commercial was at least alive and flapping, one can only imagine how stressed-out a chicken must get when told it’s going to be in a commercial for KFC.
Needless to say, executives at Carl’s Jr. were extremely careful in issuing a response to the UPC charge. In fact, several meetings with the company’s public relations and legal departments took place before CEO Larry Brayman finally released this carefully worded public statement:
“Hey, it’s a chicken.”
Okay, that’s not really what he said.
But he did say that there was “No quantifiable evidence that chickens do or do not have feelings.”
It is this very point that UPC is contesting, thanks to a new book by Dr. Lesley Rogers called The Development of Brain and Behaviour in the Chicken which, I should clarify, is not even the tiniest bit like Chicken Soup for the Soul. In her book, Dr. Rogers concludes that chickens are not only self-aware, but capable of experiencing emotions similar to those exhibited by some primates and even a few British Petrolium executives. Rogers summarizes her findings by saying, and I quote:
Even vastly improved intensive systems are unlikely to meet the cognitive demands of the hitherto underestimated chicken brain.
I’m not exactly sure what all that means, but it sounds like we better go ahead and meet the demands of this mysterious chicken brain before it’s too late.
In addition to its campaign against Carl’s Jr., UPC is also lobbying against Burger King, which is offering children something called a Silly Slammer #5 Chirpy — a plush, yellow bird that emits a “chirp” whenever it is thrown against something. UPC’s argument is that, understandably, this can only lead to the mass creation of serial killers (or, at the very least, to the mass extinction of Silly Slammer #5 Chirpies.)
Following that logic, my son has a plush toy that resembles Drew Carey’s head (I believe this was done on purpose) which, when you toss it against something, says: “Boy, my head hurts.”
In spite of this, I feel pretty safe that my son, given the chance, would not actually try to do this to the REAL Drew Carey — unless, of course, he turned out to be extremely plush and missing his entire body. In which case I’d have to say it’s at least possible.
Assuming, of course, that the mysterious chicken brain doesn’t get to him first.