Daily life of the vegetarian #8
I WAS OUT on my Saturday morning stroll today when I couldn’t help noticing this tiny hutch, in which reside four chooks; one fully grown brown shaver and three adolescent silkies. Placed elsewhere on the same suburban lawn was another, even tinier hutch where a lone rabbit sat, seemingly disconsolate.
It’s not the first time I’ve noticed, because I regularly drag my feet past this house, and I regularly feel my gall rising, and if I let my mind dwell on it, I get the urge to jump the fence and make a smash and grab rescue.
It’s a nice old stately villa that’s had love and money splashed on it, and the lawn area is generous, while the perimeter of the property is entirely fenced. I have occasionally seen the brown shaver out on that lawn, wandering around by itself (it has only recently been joined by the other birds), but most of the time, it’s imprisoned in this mini-chicken “run”, in which there’s sod all to do but stare at the dirt. And it is dirt. When I walked past today, the cage clearly hadn’t been moved for some time, because there wasn’t a shred of grass underfoot, and more disturbingly, there was no water in the water bowl.
Clearly, these animals are kept as some kind of peripheral “entertainment” for the kids, because they’re certainly not lavished with the same kind of care and attention the house or the grounds are by the owners.
I always wonder what kind of people think that chickens and rabbits could possibly be happy cooped up in such tiny prisons. Don’t they know that even “bird brains” like chooks respond to stimulus, and given the opportunity, will fill their day with as much excitement and drama as we humans seem to require?
From the moment my eight hens get up and out of their house and start free-ranging around their property, they’re having a ball. It’s a full day in free-ranging chickenland, and by the end of the day they’re ready for a night in the coop. I would hate myself if I denied my chooks their freedom to enjoy whatever the day brings.
I almost can’t bear thinking about why others can’t see this for themselves. Isn’t the human species supposed to be super-aware? So why do we pull down those heavy blinkers around basic animal welfare? Is it just our huge egos getting in the way?
Perhaps the average Kiwi considers companion animals like cats and dogs to be on a superior plane to chickens and rabbits. But if so, is it just because these animals are adapted (or modified) to be our “friends”?
Or are chickens and rabbits to be treated poorly because we have to keep them at arm’s length because we eat them, as we do farm animals?
There are several pertinent questions that come out of this, and if any readers out there know the answers, I’d love to hear them.
For instance, in a case like the one discussed here, as depicted in my photo, are there any laws pertaining to animals imprisoned in too-small cages in domestic situations?
And who would I even complain to, and could they (the SPCA? the council?) have any authority to demand better treatment? GARY STEEL