People often enquire what is the most frequently asked question we receive. I do not even have to think for a second for the answer, as the lay down misère is this ‘can you take my rooster?’ At the time of writing this story, not even midday, I have received three separate requests to take in roosters, last week via email the number of requests were twelve and by phone another half dozen or so.
Whilst on the surface the taking in of so many testosterone charged and often wayward roosters is daunting enough, a terrible indictment on our society festers underneath. Providing sanctuary (if at all possible) is simply a band-aide solution at best if nothing is done to address the cause of what I consider to be one of the most pressing (in terms of sheer numbers and lack of social awareness) animal welfare issues in our community.
The problem is this, however clever our society likes to think it is we cannot trump Mother Nature, and it is her dictate that when eggs are hatched roughly 50% will be male and 50% will be female; that is a given. Ask any veterinarian; poultry farmer or animal advocate and they will concur with this biological fact.
So herein lies a terrible terrible fate for roosters who are; not able to produce eggs, unwelcomed by many neighbours, outlawed by most councils and municipalities and unwanted by countless poultry fanciers.
With the ethical spotlight now shining on the terrible lot of caged hens in Australia, rightly appalling all decent thinking citizens, there is a far greater number of feathered creatures that needs our consideration as well – roosters.
For every laying hen in Australia right now, and that figure is around 16 million, by the laws of nature, around 16 million roosters were brought into this world. Yet sadly they didn’t even see out their first day, their gender, once determined sealed their fate. Tiny fluffy innocently chirping chicks were ‘disposed of’ by the most expedient methods possible. That’s right 16 million; it is hard to even comprehend that number.
How can it be that we do not know about these things? I recall in my pre-epiphany days, when I heard the rumblings of angry animal activists telling of the horrors of the poultry industry I thought they must have been exaggerating; they must be making it up. I took comfort that ‘we’ could never be so cruel, callous or mercenary. Surely our society could not be living by such a code of silence and cruelty and expect never to be held accountable? But surely it was and still to a large extent is.
Only recently in New South Wales a man was charged with a string of offences including animal cruelty and torture after he purchased a chicken from a pet store, brutalized it then incited his dog to attack and kill the poor hapless creature. How can it be that we call this act to one chicken criminal when the slaughter of millions and millions of roosters is considered a part of an industry? Surely suffering and death, is suffering and death regardless of the perpetrator.
I recall telling a group of school students recently the lot of roosters. I remember one young chap in the front row shooting up his hand, his question was this “but, Miss, couldn’t you take the roosters to live at Edgar’s Mission?”. As I gave my answer, I could just as well have shot Bambi in front of him.
I wish beyond believe those gentle creatures didn’t have to die so coldly and unloved, and I wished beyond belief that our society would not be so dismissive about a life form they do not share their heart and home with and I wished the death of the hapless roosters would not be such an accepted disposal of an unwanted ‘by-product’ and that calls for better by those who care be dismissed as excessive and irrational.
There can be no doubt no two people will have the exact same view on how animals should be treated but I say with great confidence we know these creatures can suffer. Our society knows this too, they have enshrined it in legislation, it is called the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. But we humans in our self-interest and ‘wisdom’ and a bid to protect our sensibilities have created Codes of Practice to circumvent our ethical thought. But trust me, it does nothing to circumvent the suffering these creatures go through nor the hardness of the human heart it creates.
But the egg industry is not the only culprit when it comes to discounting the worth of sentient creatures.
The benign ‘educational experience’ known as chicken hatching programs has its fair share of victims also. Simply bringing chicks into the world for a ‘teaching’ exercise that mirrors nothing of the real life cycle of chickens and only adds to the ever growing number of unwanted creatures that pounds and sanctuaries such as ours are struggling to cope with. And with the growing popularity of backyard chickens so too comes the problem of hens morphing into roosters as the art of sexing young chicks is indeed more art than science.
If ever you get the chance to meet a rooster, please do. For you will find a diverse group of individuals who form friendships (and even spates) with others, are chivalrous and brave, have likes and dislikes, are intelligent, fun loving, they may like you, they may not and yes, they are emotional little guys as well. And above all else you will be moved to ask yourself how did I not know.
Brrrp, brrp, oh that will be the phone “Hello”, “Can you take my rooster”…