Re/Thinking Chickens: The Discourse around Chicken Farming in British Newspapers and Campaigners’ Magazines, 1982 - 2016

by Elena Lazutkaite (University of Nottingham)

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Chickens are one of the most hyper-exploited species on the planet, but their trivialisation in public discourse makes it difficult to respond to the scale and intensity of their suffering with appropriate seriousness. In this ground-breaking book, Elena Lazutkaite takes chicken’s suffering seriously. She foregrounds the harms of chicken farming for chickens themselves, for the wider environment and for public health, while documenting how it continues largely unopposed. Across a span of 34 years and hundreds of newspaper stories, features and opinion pieces, Lazutkaite’s impressively detailed research reveals a discursive inertia that has largely failed to document or critically interrogate the massive acceleration in scale and intensity of chicken’s exploitation.
Lazutkaite analyses how news stories typically adopt a detached, dispassionate tone when discussing chickens, while excluding the perspective of advocates for chickens. This lack of balance under the guise of objectivity inhibits public awareness of chicken’s subjective experiences of violence and suffering. Lazutkaite also highlights the limitations of activist critiques of chicken farming in campaigning literature: activist discourse over the same span of 34 years tends to focus on chickens as victims, instead of their thwarted capacities to live full and flourishing lives. “Re/thinking chickens” is, therefore, an invaluable resource for activists and scholars alike: it persuasively argues that the language we use to talk about chickens shapes our actions towards them, and for them."
I think the book will find an audience among academics working in the trans-disciplinary field of Human-Animal Studies, and especially Critical Animal Studies. It will also be of interest to academics interested in Critical Discourse Analysis methodology and discourse analysis more broadly.

Dr Matthew Cole
Department of Social Policy and Criminology
The Open University

“Re/Thinking Chickens: The Discourse around Chicken Farming in British Newspapers and Campaigners’ Magazines, 1982 - 2016” by E. Lazutkaite is a thorough critical analysis of the problems surrounding the representation of farmed chickens in print media. While the book will gather the most interest from specialists in the field, the clear language and structure make it accessible for a broader audience, such as animal welfare campaigners.
Early introduction of problematic language helps frame the rest of the manuscript and clearly sets out the author’s position and objectives. Previous publications are analysed critically, with further information added where possible.
The strongest point of the book is the use of both qualitative and quantitative methods to provide an in-depth analysis that accurately identifies the major issues in the representations of farmed chickens and answers the research questions. Additionally, positive discourse analysis is incorporated in the study, highlighting the positives across the included sources and further opportunities for challenging the status quo to improve chicken welfare in the long term. The unique design of the study makes it valuable for future efforts across the social sciences.

Dr Greta Lazutkaitė
University of Warwick

"Re/Thinking Chickens: The Discourse around Chicken Farming in British Newspapers and Campaigners’ Magazines, 1982–2016" has major social relevance as it focuses on one of the most forgotten and yet most exploited farmed animals, chickens, who now have a combined mass exceeding that of all other birds on Earth. Dr Elena Lazutkaitė demonstrates that the planet’s most numerous birds, with a population of 23 billion at any one time, are trivialised in public discourse.

This book applies the analytical framework of Critical Discourse Analysis in combination with corpus linguistics tools to present a detailed empirical case study. In total, the study corpus comprises 1754 texts published over the period of 34 years in broadsheets The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph, tabloids the Daily Mirror and the Daily Mail (including their Sunday editions Sunday Mirror and Mail on Sunday) and magazines produced by animal advocacy groups Compassion In World Farming and Animal Aid.

This book will be of particular interest to university students of critical animal studies, human-animal studies, discourse studies, cultural studies, communication studies, sociology, (eco)linguistics, in addition to animal advocacy groups and media practitioners.

List of figures
List of tables
List of acronyms and abbreviations

Judith Still
University of Nottingham

1. Introduction
1.1 Author’s perspective and vocabulary
1.2 Research questions and the structure of this book
1.3 Chicken farming between 1982 and 2016

2. Theoretical background: discursive representation of animals
2.1 Species discrimination
2.2 Analysis of objectifying language
2.3 Media representations
2.4 Campaigners’ rhetoric
2.5 Shortcomings

3. Sources of data, analytical framework and methodology
3.1 Newspapers: tabloid vs broadsheet journalism
3.2 Campaigners
3.3 Critical Discourse Analysis

4. Newspapers
4.1 Overview of the newspapers’ corpora
4.2 The Guardian
4.3 The Mirror
4.4 The Telegraph
4.5 The Mail

5. Campaigners
5.1 Overview of the campaigners’ corpora
5.2 Intensive farming
5.3 “Higher welfare”
5.4 Challenges to “higher welfare”
5.5 Harm to humans
5.6 The government and political action
5.7 Chickens as agents
5.8 Visual representation
5.9 Summary and discussion

6. Conclusions
6.1 Unremarked violence
6.2 Inoculation, trivialisation and alibi
6.3 Happy chickens
6.4 Veganism. Intersection with the environment
6.5 Campaigners’ pragmatism
6.6 The Guardian opinion (best practice)
6.7 Present and future

Appendix F
Appendix G

Dr Elena Lazutkaitė is a transdisciplinary researcher and communicator committed to social change. Her passion for animals and nature motivated her to obtain a BSc in Veterinary Science and an MSc in Animal Welfare and Conservation. In 2014, Elena was awarded a PhD studentship in Critical Theory and Cultural Studies at the University of Nottingham. Her PhD thesis was a part of the interdisciplinary Cultural and Scientific Perceptions of Human-Chicken Interactions project, which brought together six universities and researchers from a wide range of countries and disciplines to examine the social, cultural, and environmental impact of this important but under-researched species.

Dr Lazutkaitė’s current and most recent work revolves around the increasingly visible connections between human, other animal, and ecological health. In her book Re/Thinking Chickens: The Discourse around Chicken Farming in British Newspapers and Campaigners’ Magazines, 1982–2016, Dr Lazutkaitė eloquently combines the knowledge from veterinary and animal sciences with critical animal studies to examine media’s construction of chicken farming.

Critical animal studies, critical discourse analysis, corpus linguistics, chicken farming, meat production, chicken meat production, egg production, newspapers, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mail, The Daily Mirror, Mail on Sunday, Sunday Mirror, Compassion in World Farming, Animal Aid, animal welfare, animal rights, discourse, discursive representation, human-animal studies, critical theory, campaigning, animal activism, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Jamie Oliver, higher welfare farming, free-range farming, organic farming, factory farming, journalism, rhetoric, avian influenza, bird flu, zoonotic diseases

Bibliographic Information

Book Title

Re/Thinking Chickens: The Discourse around Chicken Farming in British Newspapers and Campaigners’ Magazines, 1982 - 2016





Number of pages


Physical size

236mm x 160mm


53 B&W

Publication date

October 2020