Search for ‘nuggets’ believed to cause stress in chickens

(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…)

image 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.”

Note: This is NOT actually Drew Carry's head; and yes, he used to look like this.
Note: This is NOT actually Drew Carey’s head; and yes, he used to look like this.

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.

(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications, or Barnes & Noble.)

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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

35 thoughts on “Search for ‘nuggets’ believed to cause stress in chickens”

  1. Considering a chicken can run around with its head cut off, I don’t put much stock in its brain. Clearly it functions quite well without it.

      1. No, I don’t think it does. Fish qualify too, according to some scientific studies. And some men. 🙂

  2. Have you ever known anyone who has a “thing” about chickens? Basically, they have a conniption at the freaky sight of a hen. I’m one of those people. I’m a vegetarian because I’m an animal-lover, however, it’s difficult for me to discuss the above species for said reason. Thanks to you and your article about the needs of the chicken brain, I will now have chicken on the brain for at least half the day. Have that on your conscience.

  3. I don’t care how happy chickens are, per se, but I don’t want them stressed out, piled in cages, pooping on each other, not free to peck around at the ground, and filled with hormones. It would be better if they were happy and calm just before slaughtered and fried up for my meal. That said, are you sure it’s not Drew Carey?

  4. Chickens out for revenge!! They will gather, they will plot, they will terrorize suburbs. When the chickens organize the coop … er coup… feathers will fly, people will scatter, governments will fall, front yards will stink….and eggs! Eggs everywhere!

  5. You cannot convince me that the fox makes certain the chicken is all comfy cosy before he rips its head off. I understand people that won’t eat meat because they place misguided feelings into animals brainses, but please (because I’m Canadian I feel a sense of obligation to say that) don’t deny me my chicken nuggets or bison nuggets or even my nougat nuggets because you believe they believe in eternal life. Apparently carrots scream when you pull them out of the ground.

    Now what?

No one is watching, I swear...

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