PETA announced a modest victory last week, that will help ensure more humane treatment of dinosaurs everywhere.
Yes, you read that correctly, and it implies exactly what you think it does. Chickens are dinosaurs.
You've probably heard a version of this already. Thanks to Jurassic Park and a few other popular sources, most Americans are nominally aware of the idea that modern birds are "descended from" dinosaurs. But that's not entirely accurate.
Birds aren't simply descended from dinosaurs, they are dinosaurs, literally. Specifically, they are maniraptoran theropods. They were feisty enough to survive the Big Whack 65 million years ago, and keep diversifying right up til the modern day. When Darwin sailed to the Galapogos Islands and studied finches, he was face to face with living dinosaurs. When you go to MCDonalds or KFC, you are buying and eating the flesh of dinosaurs.
I won't get into bird evolution in this post, though I am still working on a series of "meet your meat" articles featuring the paleontology of popular food animals, which will begin with birds and dinosaurs.
I only mention it now because I think this is one area where paleontology can inform and help the animal rights movement, especially in the realm of humane education.
Consider: people love dinosaurs. Kids, especially, seem quite fond of them, if the popularity of Dinosaur Train is any indication. Our love affair with dinosaurs goes back almost 200 years and shows no signs of abating.
Yet, few people relate to dinosaurs as anything more than fossil displays in museums, cartoon characters or movie monsters. The notion that there are living, breathing dinosaurs walking the earth this very minute, and that millions of them being subjected to torture every day, never enters the discussion.
I think animal rights activists should do something to change that. The popularity of and fascination with dinosaurs is exactly the hook that PETA and other groups could use to interest people in the plight of birds.
I envision a "Barnyard Dinosaur" campaign, where kids and adults alike can tour a place like Animal Acres in Action, CA, to meet, and pet, and even adopt/sponsor living, breathing dinosaurs like Tom Foolery, Repecka, and Stormy. While there, they will learn about the horrid conditions into which we force these beautiful, majestic dinos so that we can eat them... and what we can all do to help save them (HINT: stop eating them).
I don't know, I think "Save The Dinosaurs!" has a great ring to it...