back to article Chickens show empathy: Official

A crack team from the University of Bristol has demonstrated that chickens show empathy – or at least hens do when their chicks are being tortured with puffed air. The researchers suggest that empathy "most probably evolved to facilitate parental care", so they decided to see whether mother hens "responded to an aversive …

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FAIL

Ummm no!

What is it with scientific research in this country now ?

How on earth does that APC test prove hens have empathetic responses to the distress of others. All it proves is the maternal protection instincts that everyone knows exists. Try APC'ing another hens chick and see if the test subjects heart rate increases then.

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Stop

You're missing the point

The chicks made little or no noise when they were being puffed. That means that the hen was working out some other way that the puffs were a bad thing. Sure the noise she made and her increased heart rate was her maternal instincts kicking in, but how did she know she should protect them? It suggests that she could put herself in their position and realised that it would be unpleasant. Which is empathy. The reason it might not work if you APC another hen's chick is that she wouldn't have cause to react to it even if she could empathise with their situation. The maternal instinct is what determines the nature of the reaction, the empathic response is what determines the need for a reaction.

To the poster below, I'd guess that if the chicken was frightened she would get the APC then that's an empathic response as well. She's put herself in the position of the chicks and realised she doesn't want it to happen to her.

The cool thing is that this sort of behaviour is one of the things that them trick-cyclists attribute to decision making. I.e. you have an empathic ability to place yourself in someone else's position compared to putting yourself in an imaginary situation to make a decision. I sort of got this from The Philosophical Baby, but psychology isn't one of my well-read subjects so I could be completely wrong.

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Chickens are sentient now?

Seems to be what you're arguing.

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FAIL

Shhh the expert is talking!

I'd assume that you have read the entire paper and have the requisite grounding in animal behaviour to be able to draw this conclusion. That or you're just another uninformed commentard assuming they can have a worthwhile opinion after reading a couple hundred word article :)

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Silver badge

@therealdarthprawn

Maybe they're someone who is inquisitive and notices what goes on around them? You don't have to do scientific experiments to realise that animals can empathise. You only need to do the tests to prove it to scientists...

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Anonymous Coward

I shouldn't have to explain this... it should be self explanatory.

"Sure the noise she made and her increased heart rate was her maternal instincts kicking in, but how did she know she should protect them?"

Because they're her chicks.

"It suggests that she could put herself in their position and realised that it would be unpleasant."

No it suggests she feels a need to protect her chicks.

"Which is empathy."

Nope, it's not it's maternal protection. An instinct that virtually every living thing on this planet exhibits.

"The reason it might not work if you APC another hen's chick is that she wouldn't have cause to react to it even if she could empathise with their situation."

What ? Did you think about that before you wrote it ?

Or it might not work because she doesn't feel any maternal instinct to protect another hens chicks. Irrelevant of any empathetic capability she might or might not posses.

"The maternal instinct is what determines the nature of the reaction, the empathic response is what determines the need for a reaction."

I'm sure that was where I started, when I stated that all this proved was that hens exhibit the maternal protection instinct towards their own chicks. There's no empathy required at all.

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Cluck

Not empathy.... I reckon the chicken thinks it's gonna get puffed next so it gets stressed.

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re: Cluck

Well, surely for that to be the case the chicken would need to know that being puffed was a bad thing and would therefore be aware that the first one was experiencing discomfort.

QED.

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Flame

...possess at least one of the essential underpinning attributes of empathy.

that would be tastiness?

flame for flame grilled.

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Pint

I always said chicken was nice.

I'll use that to wash down my chicken Madras tommorow evening.

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Coat

I bet this research didn't come cheep

Get ready for Angry Birds 3 - APC wars.

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Hen down...

The weirdest thing I have seen chickens do was after we had to dispatch one due to her being severely egg bound. (In case anyone here is pro chicken welfare, our chickens live like kings (or should that be queens?) and this one was gently shuffled off by a vet). Upon presenting the rest of the flock with their fallen comrade the whole flock went quiet and crowded round to see. A few of them made gentle pecks and soft trilling noises, but the one who stayed longest was the hen we bought at the same time (was also the same breed). The event only lasted a few minutes before it was business as usual, but it was totally unexpected. There was certainly the appearance of basic empathy or at least concerned curiosity... or maybe they were just trying to work out if they could eat it..

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Anonymous Coward

My cousins used to have chickens.

When one of the cockerels died, one of them got all depressed and decided to leave the shed and make her new home the dog kennel with the two collies.

Odd to say the least.

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Anonymous Coward

Obviously

she was missing the cock.

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Coat

Chicks showed empathy for ages!

Especially, if you produce a little black jewel case...

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Possibly true

Out three hens always gather on a bench before turning in. One day, I saw two of them still out there, much later than usual. I can only conclude that this was because the third hen was "missing".

Actually she had turned broody and was safely tucked up in the coop. Empathy, yes. Intelligence, not so much.

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This has long been know in some plants and they are finding more

It's long been know that some plants can detect signals from other plants and respond to an external threat if plant far away feel threatened.

Eveolution is just a process of empathy over a slightly longer time span (think a bit longer than finding out the football results a couple of months late, delayed empathy)

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WTF?

˙˙˙ǝuo ou ןןıʍ

will no one think of the chickens!

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Anonymous Coward

TOMATO PLANTS HAVE PAST LIVES

http://www.skeptictank.org/cossumfl.htm

/coat. I need to audit a depressed beetroot.

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Prof. F. Boyle was spot on...

Scientist 1: Shall we have a go at curing cancer?

Scientist 2: No, I'm going to see how many Fruit Pastiles it takes to choke a kestral.

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Silver badge
Troll

Or, more accurately:

Veterinary scientist 1: Shall we have a go at curing cancer

Veterinary scientist 2: We're not molecular biologists and are thus do not able to do so, given that science as a whole is split up into a large number of specialties, many of which require detailed and specific knowledge gained over several years of difficult study. Maybe we should be doing something to enlighten the public in general that not all scientists are equivalent?

Veterinary scientist 1: Oh right, lets go and do something we're qualified to do instead then?

Not quite so snappy, I admit, but I think I may have made my point...

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May not be scientifically accurate...

...but it's still good for a laugh!

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yes..

Yes... I'm scientifically minded, and a vegetarian largely due to my objection to the treatment of animals raised for food, plus my wife has a degree in biology with an emphasis on animal behaviour, and as such your elaboration was rather surplus to requirements.

Since you're going all serious, however:

It doesn't really matter how many studies like this there are; people are determined to believe that animals don't suffer for their dinner, when in fact they do, and this won't change that. The bottom line is most people don't want to believe anything that will come between them and their McSandwich. Ignorance is bliss, and all that.

Who knows, I'd like to be wrong about this, maybe this research will contribute in some way to improving the lives of battery chickens, we can hope. But on the whole I still think that the joke I quoted was relevant.

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Troll

Bite!

I think he's got one.

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Thumb Up

not quite

Not quite lurker.

While some people may be ignorant, i think most people just don't care. At least not enough to stop eating the food they love.

It's the animals suffering versus their desire for a cheeseburger. We know where the masses stand.

Though on a purely practical footing i'd like to note that meat that isn't tortured first tends to taste better, animals tend to tense when they're tortured and tensed meat is chewy and hard.

So even if you don't care for the suffering animals there is still a case against cruel treatment and improved killing methods.

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Anonymous Coward

Or maybe...

... we meat eaters just accept that killing animals for food is the way of nature. And that whilst we are happy to try to be nice about it, at the end of the day, the animal is going to die... and however you do it, that's not going to be a pleasant experience for the animal.

We're going to need a raw bleeding lump of ham icon if we're going to have discussions like this.

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Anonymous Coward

"Scientist 1: Shall we have a go at curing cancer?"

You'll be pleased to know Bristol University does quite a bit of that as well.

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Do chickens....

...dream of real pens? - i.e. phillip k dick.

Seriously though, isn't it our own stupidity and ignorance to assume all animals are extremely stupid*?

They may act strange and dumb from our own perspective but if we could experience their perspective we may change our views....

* and any human from years ago for that matter - e.g. we assume the Egyptians did not have metal work but we know they did. They simply must of had cranes to build the grand pyramids of giza in 22 years...

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Badgers

Anything is possible..

Given enough expendable, slave labour.

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Joke

Not necessarily

They don't need cranes they had whips. Massive Massive whips!

(Though you're right about the underestimating ancestral humans, apparent Greeks had mechanical calculators for predicting seasons, amongst other things)

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Coat

I thought this was common knowledge since the 90's

I clearly remember bullying a chicken with my sword until I was thrashed mercilessly by all the other chickens in the area

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Coat

heh

Should have kept it in the ol' trousers, bub.

Then you wouldn't have had such trouble with the peckers.

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