Long Island Orchestrating for Nature (LION), Long Island’s leading animal advocacy organization and the leading domestic fowl rescue in the Northeast, is cautioning schools and passersby about the dangers of exploiting animals this Spring season, following an outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) that has wiped out thousands of birds on Long Island farms and major hatcheries supplying Long Island schools.
LION has just launched six billboards in Brookhaven, Deer Park, Syosset, Hicksville and Massapequa and will be fly posting throughout NYC reminding passersby that “animal exploitation breeds killer diseases” and urging them to “keep animals off your plate and out of your classroom.”
LION’s message is on brand with New York City Mayor Eric Adam’s recent Vegan Fridays initiative as well as prohibitions on raising roosters and waterfowl throughout New York City and much of Long Island, despite hatching projects being commonplace in both localities.
LION’s warning comes with valuable alternatives: the promise of Learning Resources Chick Life Cycle Exploration Sets to any Long Island or New York City school or library that pledges to stop hatching fowl and/or a free in-school visit by local anthrozoologist John Di Leonardo to discuss humane treatment of animals.
Birds 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. Even before they’re born, chicks need their mothers, who carefully rotate the eggs up to 30 times a day to maintain the proper temperature, moisture, and positioning. Those grown in an incubator can become sick and deformed as they develop, because their needs aren’t met during incubation. For example, their organs can stick to the sides of the shell if the eggs aren’t rotated properly. If the eggs hatch on weekends when no one is at school, the chicks are left on their own until someone checks on them. Those who do survive are typically sent back to the hatcheries where they came from once the project is complete, where they are often killed upon receipt because the hatcheries do not want pathogens from the school infecting their commercial flocks. This harsh reality is hidden from children who become attached to the developing baby animals. Other birds, who may be spared by well-meaning teachers, are abandoned at public ponds or parks where they are killed by predators or die of exposure while disrupting native and migratory birds and threatening them with disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that baby fowl can look healthy but still harbor salmonella. Children who hold, cuddle or kiss them—or even touch things around the birds’ living area—can be exposed to the bacteria. Young children are especially at risk for illness because their immune systems are still developing and they’re more likely than others to put their fingers or other items into their mouth. Fecal tests have revealed that baby fowl used in classrooms sometimes carry E. coli and four different strains of salmonella, one of which is antibiotic-resistant. Any school that conducts duckling or chick hatchings becomes a potential breeding ground for these and other pathogens, including Avian flu or West Nile virus, which domestic fowl can contract.
Luckily, many humane non-animal methods can be used instead and are aligned with recommendations from leading science-education organizations and common learning objectives.
John Di Leonardo, anthrozoologist and president of Long Island Orchestrating for Nature (LION) says, “Children have a natural affinity for animals, but hatching projects teach children all the wrong lessons: that ducks, chickens and quails are disposable props to be bullied and exploited in the name of curiosity and be discarded like trash when the experiment is over. Given education’s current focus on protecting its students from deadly diseases like COVID-19 and HPAI, the nation’s bullying epidemic and New York’s law requiring that elementary schools provide instruction in the humane treatment and protection of animals, it’s both vital and timely that a standard of compassion be set and that hatching projects are discontinued in New York schools.”
LION has also filmed an undercover investigation documenting Long Island Poultry in Riverhead, Raleigh’s Poultry Farm in Kings Park and The Barn in Deer Park illegally selling days-old chicks and ducklings in quantities less than six, violating a law intended to prevent impulse purchases as well as ensure the health and safety of babies without their mothers. Inside Edition has just covered the bust in Deer Park and footage from Long Island Poultry and Raleigh’s has been sent to the authorities and is available upon request. Birds are exempt from all federal protections, including the Animal Welfare Act and the Humane Slaughter Act, so state laws are the only laws available to protect these sensitive animals. During the investigation, Long Island Poultry in Riverhead revealed that half of their entire shipment of baby birds died during transit this week, underscoring the horrific ordeal these birds experience between farms and retailers.
To meet the baby birds at their Riverhead shelter, email email@example.com or call 516-592-3722.