Home > Enviroment > NY Times column by Kristof discusses “nobility” and intelligence of poultry

NY Times column by Kristof discusses “nobility” and intelligence of poultry

October 25, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

Nicholas D. Kristof’s column in the Sunday, October 20, New York Times is beautiful, heartbreaking and important.
It is titled, “Are Chicks Brighter Than Babies?” and picks up where an opinion piece by Mark Bittman left off earlier in the week. Bittman questioned whether people should eat poultry given the recent salmonella outbreaks and lax standards of oversight. (Seehttp://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/16/opinion/bittman-should-you-eat-chicken.html for that important column.) Kristof discusses not only the intelligence, but also the “nobility” in character of some of the birds commonly eaten in our society.

He tells a tale (one that he shared in a previous column I DawnWatched about in July, 2008) of geese on his family’s farm bravely stepping up to try to defend mates who had been caught for slaughter. He then discusses experiments that show that chickens can count better than toddlers, and informs us that “poultry watch television, and, in one experiment, learned from watching birds on TV how to find food in particular bowls.”

Kristof ends with:

“I don’t know myself where to draw the lines. I eat meat, so this entire column may be braised in hypocrisy. But just as we try to protect dogs and cats from undue suffering, without necessarily considering them our equals, it makes sense to minimize animal suffering more broadly when we can. So even when there are no salmonella outbreaks, there are good reasons to keep away from wretched birds raised in factory farms.

“For my part, whenever I’m offered goose, I think back to my childhood and see those brave birds stepping forward, gallantly trying to console their mates. Whatever we make of these animals, we needn’t scorn them as ‘birdbrains.'”

I love that he writes that he doesn’t know where to draw the lines, letting us know that he is still figuring it out. Given his sensitivity around the issue I am surprised he still eats meat, and I strongly suspect he will stop one of these days. But meanwhile, I am grateful that he shares widely the information likely to lead to that transformation, a transformation many of his readers, affected by his writing but less stuck in their ways, may well beat him to.

You’ll find Kristof’s beautiful column on line here:
Please read it and share it.

Kristof blogs about his column and asks us to comment at:

We can also send letters to the editor at letters@nytimes.com
The Times instructs:
“Letters should preferably be no longer than 150 words and may be shortened to fit allotted space. They must be exclusive to The Times (no prior submission  to, or publication in, any other medium, including the Web). They should generally refer to an article that has appeared within the last seven days. We reserve the right to edit letters.  To be considered for publication, letters MUST  include the writer’s name, address, current  location (where you are writing from) and daytime  and evening phone numbers at your current  location (for verification, not for publication).”

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