[FOUNTAIN]Humans feel ‘chicken’ in bird flu eraChickens are said to have a tendency to attack an injured member of the group. “Don’t Kill a Cock,” a management book published in June 2003, is a clever fable about organizational behavior, and author Kevin Wang compared the chickens’ cruel habit to an internal feud in a company.
As an aftermath of the avian influenza, poultry farms and other related industries are alienated, as if they were injured chickens. And the fear that the bird flu could be transmitted from an infected person to another human has further discouraged chicken consumption, albeit with little scientific proof. One of the nation’s largest poultry processors went bankrupt, and the ubiquitous fried chicken joints are suffering from sluggish sales. The fear of chickens seems to be widespread around the world, and the relationship between humans and chickens has never been so distant.
People began to domesticate chickens from wild species over 4,000 years ago, with records indicating that people living on the banks of the Indus River raised chickens around 2,500 B.C. The native land of all chickens is South Asia. Charles Darwin claimed that the red jungle fowl found in India, the Malay Peninsula and Burma was the ancestor of domestic fowl. A branch of the Asian red jungle fowl spread to the Mediterranean region and Europe via Persia, and another was introduced to Japan and Korea through China. It is not certain when Koreans began to domesticate chickens, but China first started to raise fowl around 1,700 B.C.
At first, people did not raise chickens for meat or eggs. Chickens were considered pets or a source of entertainment, and sometimes they were used for religious purposes. Zoroastrians in ancient Persia considered cocks sacred birds that brought the dawn. In Korean legends about the births of Park Hyeokgeose and Kim Alji, ancestors of the kings of Silla, cocks represented the light and the opening of a new era.
Having spent millennia with humans, chickens are perhaps the safest domesticated birds we know. There is no reason to be so hostile to chickens. The sudden alienation has been so extreme that champions of chicken had to launch a “chicken day” campaign to encourage consumption, and the groundless fear of chickens has taken the life of an owner of a small fried chicken joint that suffered from a sudden drop in sales.
by Lee Kyu-youn
The writer is a deputy city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.