Although the majority of the animals we see here at the Oakland Animal Shelter are dogs and cats we do get a variety of other animals. Some of these animals are less common pets, others are wildlife, and then some are animals who have been bred or raised for human use. Just the other day we took in a colorful bird who had a metal ring through his bright red beak. He was a Chukar Partridge raised to be hunted as a form of entertainment. This guy somehow ended up out on his own and thanks to Animal Control Officer McKenna who found him he will get the chance to live the rest of his life in peace.
Recently, Officer McKenna was faced with another case which involved hundreds of victims of human misuse. These victims were 500 one day old chicks being mailed through the USPS. Thanks to an observant postal worker Oakland Animal Services was called in to assist the chicks who were dying of overheating and overcrowded conditions. They were shipped over 100 birds per small box with no water or food. They had been put in the mail early Monday morning and by Tuesday afternoon several of the chicks had died and the others were dying. And their journey had barely begun. This is when the postal worker called in OAS. Officer McKenna responded and quickly removed the remaining birds (483 survived). The shipper was contacted. He surrendered the birds saying he was shipping them up north to be raised as “meat birds.” He said he shipped them out the morning they had hatched as this was the requirement by law. He said he usually prefers not to send birds through the mail because several of the birds will die each time. He called them “straight run” chickens and admitted it would not be worth his time to drive to Oakland and repackage them for shipping. He hung up the phone saying “I hope you find them a home.”
Thankfully we now have rehomed almost all of the chicken as we said goodbye to 200 of them who went to Animal Acres in Southern California. Thanks to East Bay Animal Advocates for helping to find a home for these chickens and for renting the van and driving them all down there.
Sadly, the lives of these birds will not be normal. Broiler chickens are bred to be obese and these birds will have countless health problems ahead of them and shortened lives. It was hard, watching the chicks peeping and eating and flocking together, to understand how they could be boxed up and mailed with no more care than it takes to mail a letter.
Unfortunately the shipping of chicks is a routine occurrence in the chicken business. While a person would surely be prosecuted for shipping dogs under similar circumstances the death of chicks during shipping due to being crushed by other chicks or overheating is routine. Chickens, along with other farm animals, in fact, are often subject to the most horrendous cruelty which, historically, is excused as “routine agricultural practice.” But things have been changing as the last couple of years have seen several cruelty prosecutions involving commercial food production and even more recently the seizure of animals being abused in commercial food production.
This year the Humane Society of the United States has sponsored a ballot initiative in California that seeks to ban some of the most heinous practices in food production. This ballot initiative would ban battery cages, where egg laying hens are crushed into overcrowded cages which cause injury and death to countless birds, along with veal crates and gestation crates (crates used to keep mother pigs cruelly confined). Though this initiative does not address the mailing of living beings through the postal service it is a step in the right direction. As a state, and as a country, we have to move away from thinking of these living beings as solely a commodity. We must begin to respect and address their needs. If we are to continue to use animals for our purposes we should have the decency to treat them as humanely as possible. I urge you to support Proposition 2 on the November ballot if you want to help reduce the cruelty that food animals face in California. To learn more about the proposition go to www.humanecalifornia.org.