16 May, 2005: Don't be surprised to see five cute chicks appealing to you with the words, "We Are Not Chicken Tikkas. Please Don't Eat Us". These babies are the newest celebrities to star in People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India's pro-vegetarianism ads.
PETA is hoping to bring to the forefront the fact that chickens are living, sentient beings, who donít deserve to be reduced to a tikka. After all, chickens are inquisitive and interesting animals, as intelligent as cats, dogs and even some primates. In their natural surroundings, they form friendships and social hierarchies, recognise one another, care for their young and enjoy a life full of dust-bathing, nesting and roosting in trees.
But at factory farms across India, chickens are crammed by the tens of thousands into small sheds where they barely have space to turn around. They are overfed and pumped so full of growth-promoting drugs that they often become crippled under their own weight. Barely 5 weeks old, chickens are slammed into trucks, tied by their feet to the backs of bicycles, stuffed into boxes and taken to abattoirs, where they are shackled upside-down to have their throats slit while they are still fully conscious.
A study conducted in Mumbai showed that 90 per cent of all chickens[a1] slaughtered in Mumbai carry diseases and pathogens that cause bacterial contamination. According to a report prepared by Patrice Jones of Global Hunger Alliances[a2] , the health hazards associated with consumption of any poultry products include microbial pathogens such as salmonella and campylobacter, which can cause nausea, cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea in humans. Cancer-causing compounds, saturated fat and high cholesterol content (25 milligrams per ounce!) also put the consumer at risk for food poisoning. Soaring statistics show that the growing rates of heart disease in India are linked with an increase in poultry consumption (at least 1.4 million chickens are consumed every week in India.)
"Chickens are often sick from being crammed together, and not only is eating them bad for the birds, it also leads to hardening of the arteries and other serious health problems in humans", says Anuradha Sawhney, chief functionary for PETA India. "Chicken-killing companies care only about profits, not animal welfare, so we are hoping that this ad will lead people to consider giving birds a break by going vegetarian."
The last PETA ad to feature chickens was the wildly popular hit "Please Try to Relate to Those on Your Plate", which showed a chicken staring at a human leg on a dinner plate and was displayed on hoardings in Mumbai.