Architecture Student André Ford is proposing raising chickens for meat in vertical racks after severing their frontal cortexes, rendering them effectively brain-dead. It would be much, much more efficient, there's no doubt about that, but would it be any more ethical than current factory farms?
The images of the conceptual chicken racks are fairly disturbing- the chickens are suspended, completely immobile, with their feet removed. Tubes feed water and nutrients directly into the them while other tubes carry away waste. The chickens themselves, though, aren't suffering at all, since their brains have been surgically cut in half, rendering them permanently unconscious. Basically, what you're looking at aren't animals anymore: they're just pieces of meat that are being grown for consumption.
A system like this would significantly reduce the amount of space needed to farm chickens, raising productivity while cutting costs. And arguably, it's better for the chickens, too, since being factory farmed is a miserably inhumane experience. In an ideal world, chickens would roam free in the wild, and there'd be no factories at all. But this isn't how it works, and while you're perfectly free to buy only super happy free range organic chickens, demand is such that factory farms aren't likely to disappear.
The fact that this concept is a lot like The Matrix isn't lost on the artist, but in this case, the chickens don't have it nearly as good:
"The similarities are patent, although in The Matrix the dominant species were kind enough to provide the sub-species with a alternate reality, which was far better than the their 'real' post-apocalyptic world. This was a lovely gesture by 'The Machines', but the chickens in this system will not be privy to such a luxurious appendage to an already elaborate system, especially in this age of austerity."
What the chickens would experience might not be a fantasy world filled with the chicken equivalent of the woman in the red dress, but it's possible that no reality is better than the reality of a factory farm. We should be clear that this is just an art project, and as far as we know no chickens were harmed in the making of it, but it definitely raises some questions about some of the ways in which we get our food.
So, what do you think? Are brain-dead chickens in racks a more ethical way to manufacture food, or not?