Scientists at the genetics faculty at the Rehovot Agronomy Institute near Tel Aviv, Israel have created a mostly featherless chicken by cross breeding a broiler (which are the big, meaty ones) with a species that has a featherless neck. The idea behind the de-velopment of this ugly thang is that it will create a more ‘convenient’ and energy efficient chicken which can live in warm countries where feathered chickens don’t do well and cooling systems are too expensive to be commonly affordable.
Professor Avigdor Cahaner, who led the project, defended the bird by saying, “This is not a genetically modified chicken – it comes from a natural breed whose characteristics have been known for 50 years. I am just transferring that to fast growing broiler chickens. It’s a normal chicken except for the fact it has no feathers.” The scientists also hope the new breed will grow faster because it won’t need to use energy to grow feathers and that will would also cause the chicken itself to grow larger.
The featherless chicken has so far not reached the large “broiler’ size, probably out of embarrassment. Other ‘benefits” which inspired the breeding of the chicken is energy conservation for the processing plants. Without feathers to pluck, energy would be saved and there would be no feathers to dispose of.
Opponents of the chicken say that the changes do not benefit the animals, and are in fact likely to make their lives worse. Males have been unable to mate because they cannot flap their wings for balance, and this also effects the females. Because they are featherless, chickens of both sexes are more susceptible to parasites, skin diseases, mosquito attacks, temperature variations and sunburn. Those against this tinkering say scientists should not decide by human ‘logic’ what a chicken needs and doesn’t need; they are born with their bodies, feathers and all, for reasons.
“The chicken is disgusting”, says Joyce D’Silva of Compassion in World Farming. “It’s a prime example of sick science and the suggestion that it would be an improvement for developing countries is obscene. To create an animal solely for the convenience of an industry is sick. Chickens would never have ‘evolved’ to be like this without human interference, nor would one survive if it had been born like this ‘naturally, so how is this not “engineering”?”