Save the chickens!

by Luigi Anzivino

Four day old chicken embryo
Four-day old embryo, hosted on flickr

Someone commented on the photo above that I took, and in looking through her photostream, I saw a similar photo that she he took, with the following description:

i found this at the exploratorium in san francisco. at first i found this a little interesting. . . quickly after i realized that these poor baby chickens had their shells removed. they were then placed in a petri dish. four of them, at different stages of development and in different dishes, are then placed under a plastic table to be viewed under a sliding magnifying glass and bright lights. the chickens are no longer displayed after seven days of development.

i tried to find out what happens to the chickens after those seven days. the best answer that i have recieved so far is that they are thrown away.

while this may have (had) some scientific puposes i do not think that it is required among all the other displays. kids are there playing with magnets and water cyclones whilst possibly over 200 chickens a year have their eggs opened and are on display until they are thrown away.

i feel that this is a rather frivolous use of life. and it made me, and those i was with, very sad!

Now, I’ve been thinking about this, and something about it bothers me, although I can’t quite voice what it is. I mean, I don’t have a problem with the exhibit at all, really: you can buy fertilized eggs in any supermarket nowadays, and those are all potential little chickens that we choose to eat instead. I believe there is more value in using them for an exhibit such as this that, along with others like Energy from Death, confronts people (especially children) with the cycle of death and life, where things come from, the fact that things we eat were once alive, etc. And also it is really powerful and dramatic to be able to see how drastically an embryo can change in just four days of gestation, going from barely a speck of blood to something with a beating heart in it. I will occasionally still stop at the exhibit and just stare and marvel at the perfection and delicacy (no pun intended, maybe frailty is a better word here…) of the whole process.

Yet, I can see where she’s he’s coming from. It is a very normal sentiment to have, I think. So here’s a question for my fellow explainers and anyone else who cares to comment: where do you stand on this? And, how would you respond to the claim that this exhibit is a “rather frivolous use of life”? It would be interesting to generate ideas and debate points, because I have a feeling that many visitors share the same feelings, and it would be helpful to have some “talking points” ready in your head.