Is An Egg For Breakfast Worth This?, Nicholas Kristof, New York Times, 11 April 2012
"Like many readers, I don’t particularly empathize with chickens. It’s their misfortune that they lack big eyes.The article was making a good case for the abolishment of hen cages, not just on food safety grounds but on cruelty-to-animal grounds. That's why his statement about eye size stood out for me. Is it true that humans show empathy based on eye size? Or eye contact?
As a farmboy from Yamhill, Ore., I found our pigs to be razor smart, while our geese mated for life and our sheep and cattle had distinct personalities. The chickens were the least individualistic of the animals we raised."
Then I saw James McWilliams' (another New York Times contributor, and author of "Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly") blog post:
Small Eyes And Big Claims: Kristof On Animal Empathy, James McWilliams, Eating Plants, 12 April 2012
He picked up on the same thing:
"So let me get this straight. Kristof’s ability to empathize with an animal hinges on the animal’s ability to make eye-contact? Yes, Nick Kristof appears to rely on the categorical determining power of eye diameter to do something rather morally acrobatic: justify the decision to exploit chickens while denoting concern for their ultimate welfare. Eye size."It pains me to say this but I think Kristof is on to something regarding eyes. After all, there are more pet dogs and cats than there are pet chickens.