Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Kids and Chicks

Walking past an elementary school, I saw a typical swarm of kids around the latest hatchings of chicks - these chicks were the typical Korean chicken but there were also smaller chicks, baby quails I presume, very delicate and fragile. The chicks were for sale for ₩500 each, no matter the type, and then ₩500 for a small bag of chick feed.

Kids were grabbing the chicks up in their hands, passing them roughly from kid to kid, one tall girl half-dropped, half-flung one down when it pooped on her, and hardly at no moment was there not a hand touching, patting or scooping up a chick or a handful of chicks from the boxes. The baby quails suffered the most. One little boy had his wrapped in a handkerchief which he frequently unwrapped and rewrapped. I wanted to smack some sense in the witless boy when I saw the poor twisted little quail laying limply on its back hardly breathing, and when it was picked up and laid back down again, it just flopped; I doubt if it arrived "home" alive. I was equally shocked that the woman seller didn't at least advise the kids on less rough behavior of the chicks, but seemed to encourage them. She sat passively in front of the boxes and only moved to take the coins passed to her or to offer a plastic bag for the latest purchase to be dropped into for its journey "home". Money is money, the message was clear.

Kids buying chicks in Korea is thought to teach (animal) responsibility. Well, while feeding and watering an animal and cleaning up after it daily does teach responsibility, I think humane treatment is not included in the "responsibility package". People here just don't have many animals to see in real life, and families with children get all excited if their child sees a squirrel in a city park. One of my western friends said that was one of the main reasons he was leaving Korea -- he didn't want his daughter growing up in an animal-destitute country whipping out her cell phone to take a picture every time she saw a squirrel. Anyway, how can someone learn humane treatment if (1) they have a deficit of animal experiences, and (2) they aren't modeled from their elders (to the older generations, animals served the function of food and were treated as beasts, and obviously from this chick seller, the chicks served the sole purpose of generating money).

Not all chicks die en route "home"; some do spend some weeks on their owners' apartment balconies. Most of my university students have had the experience of trying or even for a period of time raising chicks. One of my students reported raising his chicks on the apartment balcony for a few weeks. He said they were incredibly messy and stinky and when they got big enough, mother cooked them for supper one night.

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