This weekend, an article in the Washington Post appeared titled “McNuggets of Wisdom.” The article focused on the question of whether or not chickens are as smart as dogs and takes place at none other than Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary, my favorite place to spend a Saturday.
It’s a cute article, lighthearted and generally positive towards chickens. But articles like this get me thinking: we spend an awful lot of time figuring out how “smart” one animal is versus another… pigs are more intelligent than dogs and can play video games, chickens aren’t as smart as cows because their brain is smaller, etc. When all is said and done, does any of that really matter?
In the west, we place a lot of value on intelligence in animals and seem to avoid eating those that are somehow “more intelligent” like horses, dogs, or cats. I don’t think that sentience or the will to live is dictated solely by intelligence, but we tend to tie these things together and use them to determine an animal’s “value.” Besides, it’s a pretty pointless exercise trying to compare the intelligence of chickens and dogs… they’re intelligent in different ways. Sure, a chicken won’t fetch a frisbee, but the social structures they form are surprisingly complex.
Just as a person’s true value doesn’t lie in his intelligence, any other animal’s value shouldn’t either.