IF chickens could sue for defamation of character, they'd have a winning case against the article ``Kinder, Gentler Hens for the '90s,'' Oct. 4. Chickens are neither ``clucking cowards'' nor descendants of ``wild jungle beasts'' prone to violent intra-species aggression.
Scientific field studies of the social organization and behavior of the feral chicken (e.g. research by McBride et al. in the mid-'60s) show a highly complex social life with virtually no fighting.
Marian Stamp Dawkins at Oxford provides insight into the causes of ``cannibalism'' that can occur in a cage: ``Junglefowl, which are the wild ancestors of our domesticated chickens, spend long hours scratching away at the covering of leaves that hides one of their favorite foods - the minute seeds of bamboo.
``An ancestral memory of this way of life seems to have carried down the generations into the cages of our modern intensive farms so that even highly domesticated breeds have the same drive to scratch away to get their food - if they have the opportunity.''
Chickens are natural foragers with an evolutionary instinct to range. They have excellent full-color vision, like ours. They have highly developed hearing enabling them to recognize the location and identity of other members of the flock over vast areas amid dense foliage. Our society has chosen to imprison these active birds for life and then to resort to ``blaming the victims'' for the results of what we have done to them. Karen Davis Potomac, Md. United Poultry Concerns Inc.,
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