Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 273–280

Broiler Chickens and a Critique of the Epistemic Foundations of Animal Modification


DOI: 10.1007/s10806-011-9362-y

Cite this article as:
Noll, S. J Agric Environ Ethics (2013) 26: 273. doi:10.1007/s10806-011-9362-y


Within this paper, I critique the history of the modification of the broiler chicken through selective breeding and possible future genetic modification. I utilize Margaret Atwood’s fictitious depiction of genetically engineered chickens, from her novel Oryx and Crake, in order to forward the argument that modifications that eliminate animal telos either move beyond the range of current ethical frameworks or can be ethically defended by them. I then utilize the work of feminist epistemologists to argue that understanding what it means to be a chicken shapes our conceptions of what modifications are or are not acceptable. Taking into account justifications stemming from practical knowledge when making ontological claims can help to shift our understanding of what animal modifications can or cannot be justified. The paper ends by addressing three possible problems brought about by accepting such justifications.


Philosophy of agriculture Agriculture Selective breeding Genetic modification Animal husbandry Animal ethics Animal metaphysics Ontology Epistemology Chickens 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyMichigan State UniversityLansingUSA

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