United Poultry Concerns August 21, 2001
UPC Letter to NW Airlines Re: Banning Shipment of Animals as Airmail
Ms. Cindy Scheer, Director
Customer Sales and Support
Northwest Airlines
Customer Relations, Mail Stop C6590
PO Box 11875
St Paul, MN 55111-3034

Dear Ms. Scheer:

On behalf of United Poultry Concerns and our national and international membership, I would like to thank Northwest Airlines for its decision to stop carrying newborn chicks, ducklings, goslings, and other animals for the U.S. Postal Service. It is important that Northwest Airlines abide by its decision and not renege in response to pressure from hatcheries and other vested interests urging Norwest Airlines to back down. Please stand by your decision to stop carrying live animals with fully developed nervous systems as airmail. I respectfully draw your attention to the following information.

Within the very first week of embryonic development inside an egg, an unborn chick has a fully developed nervous system. Newborn chicks experience pain and fear. They are fragile. They require warmth, nurturing, and enormous amounts of rest. Treating these birds like inanimate objects-letters, packages, etc.-deprives them of their basic needs and subjects them to cruel and abnormal distress. The U.S. Postal Service subjects these birds to unavoidably inhumane treatment before they even get to the airport.

The U.S. Postal Service does not require senders of newborn birds to provide the birds with food or water during transit. Hatcheries are permitted to ship newly hatched chicks without food or water for 72 hours, although the USPS admits that the birds may not be delivered within this time period.

The Postal Service transports the birds to the airport or other destinations in trucks that are not temperature-controlled, subjecting them to freezing, sweltering, and fluctuating temperatures. Veterinarian Jean Cypher of the Avian Medical Center in Oswego, Oregon states: "Even if ambient temperatures are mild, when chicks are crowded, those in the center will be overheated and those at the edges will be chilled." Chicks exposed to temperatures below 85-90 degrees F are at risk of immunodeficiency, starvation, and death. Chicks exposed to temperatures above 95 degrees F become dehydrated and can no longer absorb their yolks.

To our knowledge, no one at the airport is responsible for determining whether any dead birds are in the boxes to be shipped as airmail, and no one is responsible for removing dead and dying birds before loading these boxes onto the plane.

The stress of airmail shipping for newborn birds and other animals includes injury, malnutrition, water deprivation, poor ventilation, crowding, and fear. Airmail shipping may take days including stopovers, delayed flights, and long distances. Packages are treated roughly by a multitude of handlers. According to Dr. Cypher, "if chicks are jostled, crushed or dropped, their yolks will leak or rupture."

The USPS contends that newborn chicks can go without food or water for 72 hours of hatching because, under the natural conditions of hatching with a hen, the earliest hatched birds must wait until all the eggs have hatched while absorbing the remains of their yolk in order to obtain nutrients. The time period is normally less than 48 hours. According to The Veterinary Record, January 18, 1992, "by the time a hatch is completed, many of the birds will have been out of their eggs for several hours. A consignment of 'day-old' chicks will therefore include individuals of different ages. . . . [I]n North America earlier hatching chicks could be held in the incubator for up to 36 hours after hatching." This is before the live transport has even begun.

These researchers found that newly hatched chicks kept for up to 48 hours without food or water, compared with chicks given access to food and water within six hours of hatching, suffered from "lost body water," and that they "demonstrated a stronger motivation to drink and drank more when offered water, suggesting that they had been dehydrated" (Veterinary Record). Other researchers cited in the article "found that weight loss in day-old chicks kept without food and water increased with increasing ambient temperature and that the birds died when they had lost about 17 per cent of their initial weight."

This letter merely touches on the extensive testimony of veterinarians and avian specialists that treating newborn birds like mail constitutes cruelty. Please understand that we will post your response to our letter on our web site at www.UPC-online.org and through our quarterly Newsletter PoultryPress. We will be watching carefully to see whether Northwest Airlines holds firm in its decision to stop shipping newborn birds and other animals as airmail. Your decision will influence our choice of airlines in the future, and we will advise our members to act accordingly.

Thank you for your attention and consideration. We look forward to hearing from you.


Karen Davis, PhD

Related Links:

United Poultry Concerns, Inc.
PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405-0150
FAX: 757-678-5070

(UPC Letter to NW Airlines Re: Banning Shipment of Animals as Airmail)

Home | What's New? | News Releases | Action Alerts | PoultryPress | Resources | Merchandise | Links | E-mail