Dyaning Pangestika, Jakarta – An animal rights organization, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), is lambasting the Bandung administration in West Java for handing out chicks to schoolchildren to get them off their phones, citing "animal cruelty" and "potential health risks" for the kids.
Bandung Mayor Oded Muhammad Danial recently introduced a policy called "chickenization", aiming to eradicate gadget addiction among students and to teach them about responsibility through taking care of animals.
The administration recently handed out 2,000 free day-old chicks to students of two elementary and 10 junior high schools in the city as part of the policy.
PETA's senior vice president for international campaigns, Jason Baker, recently wrote a letter addressed to Oded, demanding him to scrap the policy, as he said that using chicks as a teaching method to keep schoolkids away from gadget was both "reckless and wrong".
"[The chicks] are deprived of the opportunity to bond with their mothers, leading many to become sick or deformed as they grow under conditions that can't meet their needs," Baker said in a statement made available to The Jakarta Post.
He raised concerns that chicks that survived would be killed after the project ended.
PETA also pointed out that children were exposed to potentially infectious bacteria by holding chicks. Citing a series of fecal tests, the organization said that chicks sometimes carried Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria and up to four different salmonella strains.
The group argued that handing out chicks to children without ensuring whether they could provide a safe environment for the animals told them that "It's OK to treat living, feeling beings as nothing more than disposable toys."
Baker said that PETA was willing to assist the Bandung administration find more "humane" ways to curb gadget addiction among schoolchildren.
"Many non-animal methods can be used to teach students developmental biology that are aligned with recommendations from leading science-education organizations and common learning objectives," Baker said in the letter.