Primitive Self-Consciousness And Avian Cognition
This article discusses recent research regarding the cognitive capabilities of chickens, and the implications of these findings for moral theories. The author concluded chickens show evidence of primitive self-consciousness (an intermediate moral standing between full self-consciousness and simply consciousness). This indicates chickens have an interest in being alive, and killing them merely to satisfy a preference can be seen as morally indefensible.
“Recent work in moral theory has seen the refinement of theories of moral standing, which increasingly recognize a position of intermediate standing between fully self-conscious entities and those which are merely conscious. Among the most sophisticated concepts now used to denote such intermediate standing is that of primitive self-consciousness, which has been used to more precisely elucidate the moral standing of human newborns.”
“New research into the structure of the avian brain offers a revised view of the cognitive abilities of birds. When this research is approached with a species-specific focus, it appears likely that one familiar species, the chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus), also exhibits primitive self-consciousness.”
“Given the likelihood that they are primitively self-consciousness, chickens warrant a degree of moral standing that falls short of that enjoyed by persons, but which exceeds the minimal standing of merely conscious entities.”