Did you know that Al Gore enjoys the company of Bill Gates? Legend has it the pair met under a tree in a park where they quickly became fast friends. Today they like to hang out together sharing confidences, digging up grubs and picking up chicks.
The truth of the matter is that Al Gore and Bill Gates are roosters. They came to our sanctuary after they were found one night huddled together in a national park as wildlife carers were releasing some barn owls. Somehow defying predators and an inhospitable world, the two had managed to survive, they are indeed amongst the fortunate ones. Sadly, most roosters are not so lucky.
Such is the lot of roosters that we no longer measure our days here at Edgar’s Mission by hours or minutes but by the number of calls, emails, Facebook posts and text messages we receive to take in these hapless lads.
By far the greatest number are graduates from school or kinder hatching programs who are much loved members of a family; others are backyard hens who have morphed into roosters; and yet others surplus animals from breeders—whatever their origin, all are looking down the same grim barrel at death.
For those who care about animals and embark upon a journey towards a more compassionate and just world for all, it seems incredible to learn that to satisfy our nation’s craving for eggs (often thought of as a benign farmed animal product), baby roosters are killed. Given Australia’s current population of around 16 million laying hens, an equal and staggering number of chirping fluffy male chicks were killed at just a day old.
Many will struggle to believe this inconvenient truth, trusting that our animal-loving nation, one that prides itself on strict animal protection laws, would never allow such wanton cruelty to happen. How could it be possible to legally permit animals to be brought into this world simply to be killed because they are of the wrong gender? Can you imagine for a moment the outrage if male puppies or kittens were killed shortly after birth, no questions asked?
“The figures must be fudged, exaggerated or complete nonsense,” many take comfort in believing. How do we know this? We too once subscribed to this view. Until, that is, we actually sat down and thought about it.
No matter how you like your eggs cooked—boiled, scrambled or poached—no matter what method of egg production you support—caged, barn laid, free range, organic or backyard—the inescapable fact remains the same: along with every laying hen, a rooster was hatched.
It speaks to the success of the egg-laying industry that the lot of roosters is never even raised. We truly believe that the majority of people, never even consider that tiny males chicks are suffocated, macerated or gassed as a by-product of the egg industry because that is the status quo.
And surely if something untoward was happening, something would have been done about it. Yet it is an undeniable and currently unavoidable fact of nature that 50% of hatchlings will be male. But where are they?
Even for the relative few who survive for more than one day, there is rarely a benevolent home to take them—their options are desperately limited. Those lucky ones we can accommodate here at Edgar’s Mission represent nowhere even near a bee’s knee on the tip of an iceberg of indifference towards their kind.
But roosters are chivalrous and clever, they are endearing and fun, they too are vocal and calculating and sometimes even naughty or cruel, and yes, they are early risers, but above all else, they are animals with rich emotional worlds who deserve none of the way their lives are so thoughtlessly considered.
With a huge push for ‘truth in labelling’ for produce, surely the time has come to consider the animals who ‘produce’ it. We cannot claim to care deeply about animals and expect to be taken seriously unless we also include the welfare of farmed animals, including roosters.
Once we start saying “Oh, it’s only a rooster,” a part of our heart begins to shut down and we head down a slippery slop towards a callous world, for regardless of where one sits on our relationship with the animal kingdom, it is a life none the less.
The greatest tragedy for these feathered wonders is that their quirky personalities hide beneath feathers, spurs and a beak, and are not packaged in fur with a cute, pleading face complete with a licking tongue, wagging tail or purring mechanism.
Roosters sadly remain an inconvenient truth, our treatment of them a blight on an ethical landscape that is often shaped more by self-interest and gratification than rational thought and kindness. On that we are sure Al Gore and Bill Gates will agree.