Students at Bournemouth University will be leading the project that is catchily entitled Cultural and Scientific Perceptions of Human-Chicken Interactions. And I didn't even know it was legal.
I'm a bit disappointed because my own suggested project was kicked into touch: Cultural and Scientific Perceptions of Human-Beer Interactions. And it would have cost a lot less than two million.
As part of the research, students will be sent to live in Cuba and Ethiopia and Robert Oxley, campaign director of the UK Taxpayers Alliance says: “This is frankly an absurd sum of money to spend on what appears to be a ridiculous study. Given the limited budget and important challenges facing the UK, research like this should be way down the pecking order for taxpayer-funded grants.”
Pecking order. Nice touch.
Don't laugh, but I think the more we know about chickens the better in case they ever declare war.
At any one time, there are 24 billion chickens in the world – that's more than four times the human population. Fifty billion are reared every year, many having a short and unhappy life as they are fed into the food chain.
Brits alone consume 29 million eggs a day. Hens can wear themselves out with intensive breeding and lifespan can be reduced from seven to two years. Personally, I take care only to buy happy eggs from happy chickens that are allowed to roam the range. Not many are so lucky.
Worldwatch Institute says that 74% of the world's poultry meat and 68% of eggs are produced using intensive farming techniques.
In the US, statistics for 2003 showed that 75% of all flocks were force moulted to encourage them to lay more eggs. This involves the complete withdrawal of food and sometimes water for between seven to 14 days. If this was carried out against humans, it could result in trials at Nuremberg.
But these are chickens. Who cares?
Let's take a closer look at the gallus gallus domesticus, so popular they named it twice. It originated in India where it was prized for its fighting abilities and was bred for cock fighting. The ancient Greeks considered its valour worthy of Ares, a god of war, Athena, goddess of military intelligence, and Heracles, greatest of their heroes.
Chickens live in flocks and have a collective responsibility when it comes to incubating eggs. They also really do have a pecking order, where the strongest leads.
What I'm worried about is the advance of genetic engineering. How long before some bright spark creates a chicken six foot high and 18 stone?
Oo-er, 50 billion six foot chickens striding the world?
Then we'll discover a new pecking order when those fighting cocks organise their flocks into legions and fight back against the tyranny under which they have lived for years.
Chicken and chips?
There will be plenty of chicken but mankind may have had their chips.
Unless, like me, they buy happy eggs from happy chickens. And keep the cartons to prove it.
Read more at Huddersfield Daily Examiner: http://tinyurl.com/k6omhwv).