A Meat and Dairy Article from All-Creatures.org

Lost in the Vast, Dark World of Gene-Editing

From Karen Davis, President, UPC United Poultry Concerns
July 2023

“Poultry veterinarian Simon Shane said he is in the business of feeding people and has no interest in ‘a fruitless discussion on ethics and morality.’” 

Listen to Thinking Like a Chicken Podcast, July 21, 2023. Transcript below.

Chicken sanctuary
United Poultry Concerns' sanctuary

The title of this podcast quotes the title of a recent article in The Washington Post about a drowned sea vessel with five passengers. The Post image summons up the far deeper Abyss in which countless individual animals are submerged, as we humans charge full speed with our plans and projects to subjugate all manner of life on earth to our Will. This is the ultimate, institutionalized, War Against All Anthropomorphism – not the anthropomorphism of appreciative recognition of our evolutionary kinship with the other creatures; rather, it is the anthropomorphism in which genetic engineers intentionally deform, debase, defile – play with – the minds, bodies, and feelings of other animals to reflect researchers’ desires, be they ever so trivial, perverse, biologically obscene, and pitiless. And, of course, to maintain the status quo and keep the money flowing. Here is a sample from a May 8, 2023 article in the agribusiness newsletter Meatingplace titled “Gene-editing advances win a regulatory nod”:

Dr. Oatley discusses advanced research into gene-editing in livestock, a technique that alters an animal’s genetic code to focus on desired traits such as muscle characteristics or resilience in specific environments. His team recently received U.S. Food and Drug Administration investigational authorization to create food for humans from gene-edited animals in a process that is akin to traditional selective breeding. Gene-editing could play an important role in meeting the growing global demand for protein over the next few decades.

Dr. Jon Oatley is an agribusiness veterinarian of the type I assume would not oppose the mass- extermination of farmed birds and pigs with heatstroke to control the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus documented by Dr. Michael Greger, M.D., in his 2006 book Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching.

The genetics research Dr. Oatley builds on has already produced, in chickens bred for the chicken meat industry, what researchers call the effects of “human controlled evolution.” Veterinarian Andrew A. Olkowski and associates state in “Trends in Developmental Anomalies in Contemporary Broiler Chickens” that chickens with extra legs and wings, missing eyes and beak deformities “can be found in practically every broiler flock,” where “a variety of health problems involving muscular, digestive, cardiovascular, integumentary, skeletal, and immune systems” form a complex of pathologies unlike anything in the natural world of avian evolution. Poultry personnel, they say, provide “solid evidence that anatomical anomalies have become deep-rooted in the phenotype of contemporary broiler chickens.”

Here is a quick look at two of Dr. Oatley’s gene-editing objectives:

  1. Altering the chicken’s genetic code to focus on desired traits such as muscle characteristics.
  2. Breeding resilience in chickens to specific [pathogenic] environments.

Designing Culinary Chicken Muscles

The “desired muscle characteristics” means culinary traits, as in the industry boast of “growing chickens to become pieces.” Such characteristics do not benefit the chickens but deform them even more thoroughly than they already are deformed. With these further culinary traits bred into them, the pathologies already embedded in chickens and other “food” animals will grow worse, because there is no limit to what these types of people and institutions will do to chickens and other animals.

Fitting Chickens to Intensive Farming and Global Warming

"By selecting for chickens that could tolerate the social stress, we also got chickens that could tolerate environmental stress." —Purdue University poultry researcher William M. Muir on breeding hens who are "better adapted" to battery cages quoted in “Purdue’s ‘kinder, gentler chicken’ moves into real-world test,” Feedstuffs, Jan. 16, 1995.

Instead of producers cleaning up their operations to fit the birds’ need for hygiene, less crowding and chronic stress, agribusiness geneticists like Bill Muir at Purdue University say that “adapting the bird to the system makes more sense.” Starting in the 1980s, Muir worked to develop a strain of hens whose normal pecking behavior would weaken, to eliminate the “need” to debeak hens destined for life in cages. In the course of his studies, Muir said that a power outage in his laboratory revealed that his “docile” hens fared better in the intense heat than his more active hens fared. So he devised a heat-stress experiment which led him to conclude that his heat-stressed hens not only pecked less but had more tolerance for this particular form of intense environmental stress.

(It is a commonplace for poultry researchers to claim that chickens made “docile” by blindness and other debilities in captivity have more “tolerance” for chronic stress, as if the chickens’ abnormally passive behavior meant that they suffered less in their helplessness.)

Meanwhile, global warming has opened up whole new windows of opportunity for heat-stress grants from NIH, USDA and their global counterparts. “Impact of Heat Stress on Chicken Performance . . .” states for example:

“The industry is grappling with the effect of climate change which causes heat stress and harms the performance and welfare of the chicken.” Accordingly, “it is necessary to develop newer varieties of chicken, especially heat-tolerant breed lines, in response to climate change and the diverse need of the farmers and consumers.”

Then, it could happen that when these genetically-altered heat-tolerant chickens are involved in the never-ending avian influenza outbreaks, it will be harder to kill them by baking them to death in the sheds, as is now done in the United States by turning the heat up to induce, in the chickens, massive heat stroke.

Conceivably, the industry could then resort to setting chickens and turkeys and other farmed birds on fire to control avian influenza in “constrained circumstances.” “Euthanasia” by fire could be justified as “more humane” than Ventilation Shutdown-Plus-induced heat stroke because, the industry could claim, actual factory-farm fires have shown that exposing the birds to smoke inhalation in a fire is quicker than merely turning up the heat to intolerable levels. Setting chickens on fire to get rid of the “evil spirits” of avian influenza has already been reported by the Associated Press in Indonesia.

One way or another, chickens, turkeys and countless other birds are lost in the vast, dark world we have made for them to live and die in. A 2018 review titled “Application of Gene Editing in Chickens: A New Era is on the Horizon” summarizes that “using genetically modified chickens as a model for various research areas like developmental biology, immunology, physiology and neurology is gaining importance in the avian research community.” In addition, “there is an increasing interest to generate genetically modified chickens resistant to specific pathogens, benefiting from the availability of gene manipulation techniques. This review focuses on the advances made in gene editing in chickens and the future perspectives including the generation of specific-pathogen-resistant birds.”

Pathogen resistant, stress resistant, heat resistant . . . the scenarios are endless.

The scenario that is of no interest to the poultry industry and its affiliates, including poultry researchers, the government, and the American Veterinary Medical Association, is phasing out business practices that inflict agony on chickens and other animals. Poultry veterinarian Simon Shane epitomizes the rejection of even considering the idea of morally driven human evolution in how we treat animals. He told the journalist who reported on “The bitter civil war dividing American veterinarians” that he is in the business of feeding people and has no interest in “a fruitless discussion on ethics and morality.”

I hope you have found today’s podcast episode informative and thought-provoking, and that you will share it with others. Please tune in for the next podcast episode of Thinking Like a Chicken – News & Views! Thank you and have a wonderful day.

*For more, see The Experimental Use of Chickens and Other Birds in Biomedical and Agricultural Research

I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s podcast, and that you will share it with others. Please join me for the next podcast episode of Thinking Like a Chicken – News & Views. And have a wonderful day.

Return to Meat and Dairy Articles
Read more at Animals in Labs