ISLINGTON AND HACKNEY VEGAN FAMILIES
London based group for vegan parents, vegan children, vegan babies and vegan pregnant people
We meet to socialise and are planning a campaign to stop chick hatching in local schools. See below for a letter written by Ruth.
CAMPAIGN: STOP HATCHING PROJECTS IN HACKNEY SCHOOLS
Chickens are amazing, and it’s wonderful to teach children about them.
Chickens have their own language with over 30 different sounds used to communicate. Baby chicks can develop object permanence as young as 2 days old - an understanding that when an object is hidden, it still exists – thought it takes a human baby about 7 months.
Chickens experience REM sleep and dream just like we do. Research suggests that chickens are cleverer than toddlers. Hens have exhibited mathematical reasoning, self-control and even structural engineering. Mother hens teach their chicks what is safe to eat and what to avoid. Chickens love their families, have complex social bonds, and value their lives, yet when used as classroom teaching tools, they’re denied everything that’s natural and important to them. The chicks deserve a better start to life than an incubator in a school.
“It is difficult to guarantee the welfare of animals bred in the school environment and we believe that such programmes of study do not promote responsible attitudes to animal care and husbandry.”
“The RSPCA strongly discourages the keeping of animals in schools. Schools can be noisy and frightening places for some animals and it is very difficult to look after any animal’s needs properly in a classroom environment. Any members of the school's staff who are responsible for an animal or animals being on the school premises - whether on a permanent or temporary basis - are now subject, as a result of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, to the legal obligation to ensure that those animals' needs are met.”
You can read the RSPCA’s guide to animal friendly schools here.
The needs of chicks cannot be properly met in an incubator:
need for a suitable environment – they are not kept with their mother, it will be noisy and bright.
need for a suitable diet (food and freshwater) – these cannot be checked overnight and at weekends.
need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns – their mother is not with them. Mother hens talk to their chicks in the eggs, and the chicks talk back developing their language skills even before hatching. An incubator tank is not an appropriate environment in which to allow the chicks to express their natural behaviour. Without their mother, they don’t have the opportunity to learn from her.
any need it has to be housed with, or apart from, other animals – they are not with their mother, who they naturally develop a bond with, and have evolved to stay with for up to 10 weeks after hatching.
need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease – placing the chicks with spirited young children is placing them in a vulnerable position. A mother hen turns her eggs carefully up to 30 times a day to maintain even warmth and moisture according to cries from the chicks inside. Without this careful adjustment, many chicks born in incubators are born with deformities or with organs or limbs partly stuck to their egg shells. The BBC has a news story about this
Alternative teaching methods to meet the needs of the curriculum.
Children and young people can be taught about animals without keeping animals in the classroom.
soft toys and props
role play and drama activities
books, videos, DVDs, and CD-ROMs
observing animals' behaviour in their natural habitat
developing a wildlife area in the school grounds.
Some specific options:
Virginia Tech’s “4-H Virtual Farm” Chicken Embryo Development site includes video of chick embryo development, still images, and text on the development process.
The University of Illinois’ “Chickscope” provides diagrams, images, and detailed information on each day of chicken embryo development in the 21-day process.
The NOVA Online Odyssey of Life website includes a video clip of chick embryo development.
Egg: A Photographic Story of Hatching by Robert Burton (with photographs by Jane Burton and Kim Taylor) looks at the egg-hatching process through close-up photographs. The book follows the first crack in the eggshell to the moment that the chick breaks out of the egg.
CURRICULUM PLANNING TO BALANCE VEGANISM WITH OTHER BELIEFS
Planning to teach a curriculum which balances respecting ethical veganism with other beliefs
teaching about animal use:
includes a critical approach
acknowledges a diversity of viewpoints
teaching gives equal respect to vegan convictions as to the non-vegan position;
teaching about animal use is not presented in a sanitised way that presents an inaccurate picture of how we use animals, perhaps omitting the fact that animals are killed, or presenting that in a benign way, and other factual inaccuracies and omissions;
teaching does not use materials prepared by those involved in animal-using businesses, for example if a local dairy company provides a school with materials that are then used to teach;
animal products are not promoted
speakers are not invited into schools who use animals, for example butchers, farmers who use animals for “dairy”, “meat”, eggs or “fish”, without a balanced visit from a vegan perspective
visits to places where animals are used, such as “meat”, “dairy”, egg or “fish” “farms;” or markets are not undertaken without all pupils having a full understanding of the production cycle (for example that half of all hens kept for egg laying are killed by gas or ground alive at birth because they are male, and that as sentient beings animals always seek to avoid death and that they experience suffering when their choices are restricted or they are killed)
visits to places where animals are kept in captivity, such as zoos are avoided, or do not take place without a discussion of the effect of that captivity and an understanding of the full cycle (for example that many animals bred in captivity are killed to restrict population numbers);
teaching about food and nutrition acknowledges up-to-date dietetics advice regarding the nutritional adequacy of a fully plant-based diet, and includes plant-based suggestions for all nutrients covered;
animal rights and veganism is included in classes covering moral education;
using live animals in education, for example “chick hatching projects” is avoided, and otherwise includes ongoing discussions about the animal’s welfare and their natural needs
dissection of animals includes the option to opt out and a class-wide discussion of the ethical reasons students may wish to withdraw from the class, and that they are free to do so;
alternatives to animal products for cooking and other classes are provided;
teaching about environmental dangers such as climate change, water pollution and shortages reflect the proportionate contribution of animal agriculture