The ‘headless chicken solution’ was presented by the Architecture Department of the Royal College of Art in London, as a way to solve the welfare problems caused by intensive poultry farming. By depriving chickens of their sensory perceptions, while maintaining the vital functions of the brain, the project claims to solve the problem of rising global demand for meat.
Architecture student André Ford, who came up with the idea after reading philosopher Paul Thompson’s ‘blind chicken solution’ – suggesting that blinded chickens are less sensitive to their living conditions – said: “As long as their brain stem is intact, the homeostatic functions of the chicken will continue to operate. By removing the cerebral cortex of the chicken, its sensory perceptions are removed. It can be produced in a denser condition while remaining alive, and oblivious.”
For animal welfare organisations, the idea is an unacceptable. Philip Lymbery, CEO of Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), told GlobalMeatNews: “Coming up with grotesque and macabre new systems for farming is not the way forward. Chickens are sentient beings that should be treated with the respect they deserve as living, breathing creatures. There are higher-welfare, sustainable farming methods that many farmers are successfully using. It is possible to keep the welfare of a chicken, as well as the production of quality food, at a farm’s core.”
However, Ford said he knew his project was provocative, but that higher-welfare production systems would not be able to cope with global demand in the next decades. “I think it is time we stopped using the term ‘animal’ when referring to the precursor of the meat that ends up on our plates. ‘Animals’ bred for consumption are crops and agricultural products like any other. We do not, and cannot, provide adequate welfare for these agricultural products and therefore welfare should be removed entirely,” he said during a Q&A session on website we-make-money-not-art.com.