A online exhibit asks us to take another look at the chicken.

Posted May 10, 2013

If you watched the Super Bowl this year, you probably saw an advertisement for Mio Sports Drink. The Mio Fit Game Day “Anthem” featured comedic actor Tracy Morgan, silhouetted  in front of an American flag, patriotic music in the background. Morgan strides toward us, saying “You know what always kept America moving forward? … Change! We didn’t like the shape of chickens, so we changed them to nuggets!” 

This is all well and good for America and football, but not so nice for the chicken. How is it that the pain of suffering of billions of these creatures can be served up as the butt of a Super Bowl joke, without so much as a peep of public outcry? Well, it is perhaps because the chicken just doesn’t get that much R-E-S-P-E-C-T as a living, breathing, thinking, and feeling animal. Of all the animals humans have domesticated, the chicken is at once the most ubiquitous and the most invisible. An exhibit, opening tomorrow at the online Museum of Animals & Society, is hoping to open our eyes to the world of the chicken. The May 11 opening of Uncooped: Deconstructing the Domesticated Chicken, curated by Abbie Rogers and L.A. Watson, is timed to coincide with International Respect for Chickens month. (Bet you didn't know chickens had an international respect month!)

An excerpt from the exhibit description reads:

Homo sapiens and Gallus gallus domesticus share a long and complex history, from the jungles of Southeast Asia to the cockfighting pits of ancient Rome, from the Victorian show ring to the modern day factory farm. Human attitudes toward chickens are likewise vast, ranging from creation myths that revere chickens and the egg in the formulation of the world, to dismissals of chickens as dull and foolish.

Today, chickens have mostly disappeared from public view inside the long, windowless sheds of the factory farm, and the word “chicken” no longer invokes an animal, but rather a piece of meat. Popular perceptions of chickens are shaped from an early age by storybooks, cartoons, and toys; and are advanced later in life, by advertisements, the media, familial traditions, and fast food culture among others. The story of chickens has been overwhelmingly one-sided, and they are typically seen as a means to an end, rather than as individuals with a wide range of cognitive abilities and a rich family structure.

The aim of our upcoming exhibit is three fold: to explore our perceptions of chickens that shape our relationship with them, to examine the historical and current day ways we treat chickens, and finally, to discover who chickens truly are, in part through the latest scientific research from the field of ethology (animal behavior), and a series of interactive galleries featuring audio, video and photographic documentation of rescued chickens and the impact they have had on people's lives.

You can visit the exhibit here.