I'm taking the Dogs on Thursday idea and running with it so I've got more articles to add to my blog. Enjoy "Farm-life Friday!" :)
As kids head back to school at the start of September, teachers everywhere are implementing curricula to enhance students’ learning experiences and instill knowledge in them to last a lifetime. Though well-intentioned these planned lessons may be, some will unfortunately involve students’ complicity in animal exploitation. Among those class assignments which seem harmless to many at first glance, but cause more damage than good – including zoo field trips and animal dissection labs – is the hatching of chicks to teach the life cycle.
Prevalent in schools both urban and rural, hatching projects not only contribute to the senseless suffering of countless animals, but also send a message to kids that living creatures are disposable. Regrettably, the hard-to-swallow truths behind these projects are not often realized by participants and their parents until it’s too late to change their outcome. That is, unless someone already knows to speak up to stop animal abuse when they see it – someone like Manhattan PS 234 first grader, Rose McCoy, who along with her mom, Emily, sprung into action after her class embarked on such a lesson, leading 16 ill-fated chicks to our New York Shelter.
According to Emily, proud parent of 7-year-old Rose, the hatching project, conducted by four PS 234 elementary school classrooms, began in April after being added to the curriculum earlier last year without her knowledge or consent. The lesson involved each class incubating about a dozen eggs. Of those incubated in Rose’s class, six hatched and only four survived. In another class all the chicks died. It didn’t take long for fatalities, Emily said, to become the hallmark of the lesson – a reality that disturbed, rather than educated, Rose.
“The problem we’ve seen with hatching projects like this is that since the chicks are being used like inanimate teaching tools instead of valued as sentient creatures, their welfare rarely enters the equation,” said National Shelter Director Susie Coston. “Add to that the fact that you’re dealing with extremely fragile chicks, who need very special care, and you get a recipe for disaster: high mortality rates, illness, deformities, and injuries. That’s a lot of suffering for life lessons that can be humanely and more accurately taught through alternative means.”
The PS 234 hatching project culminated with a school celebration originally intended to send the chicks off to a poultry farm outside of New York City, where they would have entered into production if they hadn’t been rescued by Rose and Emily. After negotiating the chicks’ release, the McCoys arranged for their safe transport to Farm Sanctuary, where the week-old birds – including one with a severely-injured leg from being handled incorrectly – were monitored closely and cared for ‘round the clock during their first critical weeks of life.
“The children, especially Rose, naturally felt affection for the chicks and were devastated when they died. The sad reality is that there is no real difference between the chicks who passed away in the classroom and the ones being raised for slaughter at the farm – the kids just haven’t gotten close to the birds at the farm and won’t witness their deaths,” said Emily. “I learned years ago that there is nothing natural about the way commercial chickens are raised, beginning with factory breeding practices and ending with the hatching of chicks who never know their moms. At the end of the day, the lesson plan failed to show kids the truth.”
In lieu of a PS 234 first grade class’ field trip to see chickens being raised for meat and eggs at a poultry farm in New Jersey, Rose, with family in tow, visited Farm Sanctuary instead, where, in addition to bonding with a rooster named Fennel, she checked up on the chicks and with the help of her father, Padraic, aptly named one Saoirse, a strong Irish name meaning “freedom.” Now, as the McCoys continue cultivating compassion with teachers and administrators at PS 234, Saoirse and the other chickens are sowing seeds as well – teaching visitors to the shelter about the hidden plight of animals raised for food and the miracle of all life.
Do you know or have a child in school? Visit farmsanctuarykids.org today to learn more about how kids can promote alternatives to animal experimentation and help animals in their classrooms. If you are a teacher and you would like to sow some seeds of compassion with your students, order our Cultivating Compassion materials for lesson plans, hand outs and classroom activities!