1) Nature and Behavior of Quails
2) Why Quails Should Not Be Hatched in the Classroom
3) Factory Farming’s Smallest Victim
4) Quail & Pheasant Hunting: Sadistic Satisfaction
Nature and Behavior of Quails
Japanese quail (genus: Coturnix) are genetically designed to forage – to search over wide areas of fertile ground for their food. Japanese quail care for their young, mate for life, nest on the ground, dustbathe, and behave in the many ways that characterize Galliform – ground-dwelling & nesting – birds. Galliforms include chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quails, peafowl, grouse, partridges, guinea fowl, and related birds. Japanese quail have a powerful drive to migrate. Efforts to keep them in North America all year round failed because they migrated in the fall and never returned.
Like all quails, Japanese quails have a strong family life. Quails build sturdy nests on the ground, usually hidden under vegetation. While the female does most of the nest-building and egg incubation (21-25 days), the male often assists her and helps take charge of the young. Young quails run and are able to catch food for themselves within a few hours of hatching. Baby quails peep to each other as they feed, to keep the group together. In nature, quails remain in family groups. As the young birds mature, the families mingle with flocks of 100 or more birds who stay together and protect one another.
Quails have excellent full-color vision. They can spot a food grain or small moving beetle under a leaf as well as sharply surveying their surroundings. Like chickens and other birds, quails communicate with their parents and siblings before they are born to signal distress and to synchronize hatching.
Quails have a complex sensory and nervous system that includes a sense of smell, sensitive beaks, keen hearing, and a sophisticated memory capacity.
J.K. Kovach. 1975. “The Behaviour of Quail.” In The Behaviour of Domestic Animals, ed. E.S.E. Hafez. Baltimore, MD: The Williams and Wilkins Company.
Why Quails Should Not Be Hatched in the Classroom
Normal quail behavior has no outlet in the classroom hatching environment. The lack of natural outlets and environmental stimuli can lead to feather-picking and other abnormal behaviors. Dr. F. Barbara Orlans, Senior Research Fellow at Georgetown University, explains: “In these projects, any sense of parent birds carefully preparing nests and tending their future babies is lost because the eggs are hatched in a piece of equipment. The surviving chicks are usually doomed to a life-expectancy of a few days spent miserably. Young birds need nurturing and rest. They are difficult to feed in the classroom and can suffer starvation and dehydration that is not even noticed. As it is well established that birds feel pain, in my opinion ‘educational’ projects that inevitably result in animal suffering are unjustified.”
The overriding message of bird-hatching projects is that human responsibility for these birds is limited, and animals can be discarded. Students and tomorrow’s adults are encouraged to produce litters of puppies and kittens that neither they nor anyone else wants after the “miracle of birth” has worn off. As a Maryland shelter worker told a newspaper reporter about all the doomed birds and other animals pouring in all the time, “I’m not seeing people who are looking for them.”
What Can I Do Instead?
- The intent of bird hatching projects is to teach children something about reproduction and embryonic development. Students can watch nature films of wild birds tending their nests and their young, thus seeing birds meaningfully in their world. Developmental projects using seeds of plants avoid the ethical pitfalls of using highly developed warm-blooded social vertebrates such as chickens, ducks, or quails.
- Contact United Poultry Concerns for more information including our teachers’ guides Hatching Good Lessons: Alternatives to School Hatching Projects and Bird Watching as an Alternative to Chick Hatching for Primary Grades. For Hatching Good Lessons, click on: http://www.upc-online.org/hatching/
UNITED POULTRY CONCERNS
PO Box 150
Machipongo, Virginia 23405-0150
Quail: Factory Farming’s Smallest Victim
[The following account is from Today’s Poultry Industry: The Inside Story, a booklet/ online report by FARM ANIMAL WELFARE NETWORK (FAWN), PO Box 40, Holmfirth, Huddersfield HD7 1QY, UK]. http://www.fawn.me.uk/
Though wild and timid by nature, Japanese quail are reared intensively to supply meat and eggs for a “luxury” market. Their extremely rapid growth and early sexual maturity make quail farming a profitable enterprise. Photo: Quail in battery cages. Note the wire flooring and lack of headroom. Photo: A.D. Mills (INRA-Nouzilly)
Egg Production – Caged Like Battery Hens!
The tiny birds are crammed into battery cages – miniature prisons designed to foil repeated and desperate attempts at escape. Caged quail cannot fulfil natural behaviour patterns like dustbathing and searching around for food. The females have nowhere secluded for egg-laying, and no nesting materials. When alarmed, quail first crouch, then fly upwards, vertically. In cages this can result in severe head injuries, and sometimes death.
Quail reared for their meat are kept like broilers [industry term for baby chickens raised to 6-weeks old, then slaughtered for meat-UPC ed], crammed by their thousands into dimly-lit sheds.
The Suffering of Farmed Quail
In their natural habitat Japanese quail live amongst grasses and bushes, flying over short distances. Like all birds, they are very active. Both intensive systems (cage and broiler shed) cruelly deprive birds of their freedom.
Stress and Aggression
Made aggressive by their horrendous living conditions, quail suffer acute stress, often attacking each other, pecking out feathers and sometimes eyes. Head injuries, which can be lethal, are common. Competition for food can result in injury and, in weaker birds, death from starvation.
Five Weeks Old and Ready for Slaughter!
Quail can live for several years, but the lives of those farmed for their meat are short indeed! By five weeks of age quail weigh between 160 and 250g, and have achieved their most profitable growth spurt. At the slaughterhouse the timid birds are hung upside down in metal shackles and electrically stunned [not rendered pain-free and unconscious but electrically immobilized while fully conscious to facilitate feather removal by paralyzing the muscles of the birds’ feather follicles. For information on poultry slaughter visit www.upc-online.org/slaughter/ - UPC ed.], before having their throats cut. On small production units birds may be killed by decapitation or neck dislocation.
Prolonged Suffering for Egg Layers and Parent Stock
Quail reared for eggs and those kept for breeding purposes are confined for several months in cages. Among the breeders, unnaturally frequent matings lead to injuries in females. (Photo: Quails reared intensively for meat, living in conditions similar to those endured by broiler chickens. Photo courtesy of Caillor S.A. – 40120 Sarbazan.)
4) Quail Hunting
“Bird hunting” (of ground-nesting birds like quails, pheasants and grouse) is distinguished from “still hunting” of birds like ducks and turkeys by the hunter moving around instead of using a blind or stand. For information about pheasant hunting visit http://www.fawn.me.uk/pheasant.htm
Quail Shooting: an exercise in “all the truly destructive male pathologies,” or, blame the gun, not me - Stephen Hunter
The following account is from Stephen Hunter, “Views of the Vice President’s Misfire Hits a Fellow Bird Hunter Where It Hurts,” The Washington Post, Feb. 14, 2006, C01. The vice president referred to is U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, who shot his quail- hunting partner (allegedly by accident), Texas lawyer Harry Whittington, on Feb. 11, 2006.
“The pleasure of bird hunting is that unlike still hunting (the duck blind, the deer stand) you are in motion against the texture of the land and it can always trick you. . . . When the vice president ‘busted a covey’ – that is, startled a group of birds into flight to his far right – he tracked one, stayed on it even as he curled around farther to the rear and pulled the trigger. . . . Wing shooting alone demands that a gunner concentrate on the target, not the sights. The art of the shot is in mastering the mount so that as the gun comes up and is placed to the shoulder, head, eye, arm and hand are in perfect synchronism and the shot pattern goes where the eyes are looking. If you take your eye from the target to divert to the sights, the whole elegant choreography falls apart, and you miss. That’s apparently what Cheney was looking at – he saw only the bird, its [his or her-UPC ed.] wings whirring as it [she or he-UPC ed.] drilled through the air, everything else was blur. . . .
“[Shooting intensively farmed quails and pheasants is] a pleasure that is difficult to express. . . . The elegance of it is so satisfying: The gun comes up, unwilled; you track the bird, as by some alchemy you become the gun and sense when your barrel – that smudge of dark at the bottom of the mélange of imagery your eye has conjured – is past your target the right amount and then the gun seems to fire itself. . . . On this shot [the reporter Stephen Hunter, describing himself pheasant hunting], the bird broke low and straight, a right-to-left passer, about 25 yards out, and I was on it [the bird- UPC ed.]. . . . Too late: I fired, busted the bird in that satisfying cloud of feathers and wreckage, as it [he or she-UPC ed.] instantly loses its [his or her-UPC ed.] aerodynamicism and becomes just weight in air. . . .”
“[T]he guide knew exactly what had happened: hubris, arrogance, self-love, narcissism, all the truly destructive male pathologies. . . .” [To his list of the truly destructive human pathologies, he forgot to add sadism, pitilessness, and lack of conscience.-UPC editor]