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    A Times Editorial

    A fowl plot


    © St. Petersburg Times
    published June 2, 2002

    It's a pitiful sight, this featherless chicken. It's also an ugly one -- beet red and, in the words of one Newsday columnist, "bearing a passing resemblance to a small dragon." It's enough to turn anyone against eating chicken. This mutant variety of chickens -- the latest result of genetic engineering -- was recently developed at Hebrew University in Israel.

    These "naked chickens" are one step closer to the frying pan thanks to Israeli genetics professor Avigdor Cahaner. He bred this featherless bird to keep it cooler in the heat and to save money on plucking costs. But his fowl plot has resulted in an unfortunate side effect. The chickens can flock together only in shaded areas, because their unprotected skin makes them extra-sensitive to sunlight and they keel over.

    Despite Cahaner's barnyard breakthrough, one has to wonder if Chicken Little had been one of Cahaner's featherless brood, would she have been taken seriously?

    Whether the feathers disappear before or after they are born, one thing is for sure: these chickens are dead meat.

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