Despite a national effort by animal advocates to stop it from happening, in November Congress voted to give the US Postal Service power to force the airlines to carry "day-old poultry" and other live animals as mail. This was a vote for one of the cruelest human enterprises on earth.
Chick hatcheries in the United States hatch millions of chickens, ducklings, quails, pheasants and other birds. They deliver boxes of the newborns to the Post Office. The Post Office delivers the chicks to an airport terminal to be airmailed to hunters, breeders, feed stores, pet stores, 4-H clubs, etc. The birds fly at the cheapest rate, there are no temperature regulations, and the boxes containing them are banged around like luggage and packages under the Postal Service heading of "perishable matter." When Northwest Airlines announced in August it would no longer carry chicks as mail, joining United Airlines and American Airlines in no longer shipping any animals as mail, the hatcheries and Postal Service launched a successful lobbying crusade to get Congress to force the airlines to carry newborn birds as airmail. Northwest Airlines has noted that up to 30 % of the birds die en route, many birds are crushed, and employees have desperately tried to revive dying birds. Last June, for example, according to The Wall Street Journal (Nov. 7, 2001), "[r]oughly 300 chicks died en route to Ohio after being exposed to rain; they were discovered during a layover in Minneapolis, where Northwest has its headquarters. Airline employees made 'valiant efforts' to save the birds, using blankets and lamps,' says Kurt Ebenhoch, a Northwest spokesman. 'It's very upsetting,' he says, adding that many Northwest employees are pet owners."
Please note: While the Postal Service and hatcheries say newborn chicks can go without food or water for 72 hours, in reality the birds are dehydrated and their yoke nutrients are nearly or completely depleted by 48 hours. When chicks are jostled, crushed or dropped their yolks can leak or rupture. Baby pheasants are being airmailed to hunters to be used as target practice, and the bill will provide a way to transport chickens for cockfighting purposes, even if Congress does pass legislation banning interstate transport of birds intended for cockfighting as seems likely.
The provision of the Treasury-Postal appropriations bill allowing the Postal Service to force the airlines to carry live chicks as mail is expected to come up for review in June 2002. Please urge your two U.S. Senators and your House Representative to oppose this provision. Letters and phone calls are critical: that's how the hatcheries won this round.
The Honorable _________
Washington, DC 20510
The Honorable _________
House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515