Newsletter - Animal Writes sm
From 9 January 2000 Issue

Rumors, Hoaxes, and Bird-brained Stories
by [email protected]

Urban legends used to travel at the speed of sound as they were passed from one person to another across the back fences of America. Nowadays, with the internet, false rumors travel at the speed of light.

Last year Animal Rights Online's mailbox received several letters from people asking about the cleaning product Febreze. A rumor had been spread that it was toxic to dogs and cats and had been the cause of several pet deaths. The rumor was false, but because birds are especially sensitive, Febreze really should not be used around them.

The ironic thing about this tale is that Procter and Gamble make Febreze and they do test on and kill animals. That is the real truth that should prevent people from buying Febreze. Procter and Gamble is not owned by the Church of Satan, however, which is another urban legend that has been making the rounds for years.

Last week we received a letter from one of our readers asking us to verify the truth of a story they had received about Kentucky Fried Chicken. According to this recent rumor, the US Government had forced the fast food chain to change their name to KFC because the genetically altered, beakless, legless birds they grow in factory labs cannot legally be classified as chickens.

An outrageous story, and false. KFC really changed its name to downplay the unhealthy connotations of the word "Fried." The ironic thing about this story is that the underlying facts are so close to the truth...factory farmed chickens bear little resemblance to the wild birds they are descended from. They are beakless, their beaks cut off to prevent them from pecking each other to death in the crowded conditions in which they are kept. They might as well not have legs; they aren't permitted to walk or scratch the earth, and their legs often grow into the metal of the small cages they are crammed into.

Here's a story I fell for. Some months ago I read a story at a "strange, but true" news site about a parrot with a 300 word vocabulary that was being allowed to testify in a murder trial because it had witnessed the death of its master. In our last Animal Writes newsletter of 1999 we ran a list of special events and achievements in animal rights and welfare for the year. "Parrot allowed to testify in Florida murder trial" was one of those items.

That list had been submitted to us from a vegetarian society that is a frequent source of information for our newsletter. When I saw the parrot item I thought to myself, "oh yeah, I remember reading about that". It must be true then, right? Two of our readers wrote us asking for more information on that story and I did a search of the web. I discovered that the source of that tale was the April fools issue of an online animal rights magazine. Sheesh. I apologize for letting this slip into our newsletter as a news item.

I guess I just wanted to believe it was true. Parrots do much more than merely mimic words spoken to them, they can answer questions and express their desires. Studies by Dr. Irene Pepperberg at the University of Arizona and other avian biologists have proven that communication between parrots and humans is possible. However, a parrot has not testified in a murder trial, not yet anyway.

Here's one last bird-brained story that is traveling around via emails pretending to be true. This urban legend is usually attributed to a real news service. This is one version I have seen:

According to the Knight-Ridder News Service, the inscription on the metal bands used by the U.S. Department of the Interior to tag migratory birds has been changed. The bands used to bear the address of the Washington Biological Survey, abbreviated Wash. Biol. Surv. The bands are now marked Fish and Wildlife Service because of the following letter the agency received from an Arkansas hunter:

Der Sirs: Whil hunting last weak I shot one of your birds. I think it was a crow. I folowed the cooking direcions on the leg tag and I want to tell you it was horible.

Go on to 10 Simple Things You Can Do To Make This New Century Better For Animals
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