Free the chicks: PETA urges Bandung Mayor to cancel chick-giving program aimed at tackling mobile phone addiction

Bandung administration kicked off the program to combat children’s mobile phone addiction last week by distributing some 2,000 chicks to 10 elementary and two junior high schools in Gedebage and Cibiru sub-districts. Photo: Humas Pemkot Bandung
Bandung administration kicked off the program to combat children’s mobile phone addiction last week by distributing some 2,000 chicks to 10 elementary and two junior high schools in Gedebage and Cibiru sub-districts. Photo: Humas Pemkot Bandung

Though it may seem innocuous (but questionable), a plan to combat children’s mobile phone addiction — by giving them chicks to raise, no less — has been met with a protest from one of the world’s largest animal rights organizations.

The mayor of the West Java capital of Bandung, Oded M. Danial, finally proceeded with his proposal of giving free range chicks to students. After announcing the plan back in October, the Bandung administration kicked off the program last week by distributing some 2,000 chicks to 10 elementary and two junior high schools in Gedebage and Cibiru sub-districts.

According to Gingin Ginanjar, who heads Bandung’s Food and Agriculture Security Agency (Dispangtan), the program aims to help build students’ characters. 

“The chickens will be for a learning process, there will be lessons interjected in it. There are five subjects [that support this program] such as science, social sciences, information and communication technology, art projects, and Indonesian language. The students will be  monitored for at least six months (one term),” Gingin said last week, as quoted by Detik

Whether or not mobile phone addiction, or more commonly referred to as “gadget addiction” in Indonesia, is a genuine psychiatric disorder is still up for debate. However, Bandung’s chick solution has raised concerns of potential animal cruelty and health risks to children.

One especially concerned group is the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

The Asian chapter of the American animal rights organization has urged Mayor Oded to scrap his chicks-for-gadget program, saying that handing out chicks without ensuring their safe treatment could potentially send a dangerous message for children, along the lines of making it “okay” to treat animals as “little more than disposable toys.” 

“Using chicks as teaching ‘devices’ to keep children off their devices is reckless and wrong,” Jason Baker, PETA Asia Senior Vice President of International Campaign, wrote in a letter to Oded, a copy of which was received by Coconuts today.

“This project puts the life of each chick at risk … Those who survive usually end up being killed when the project is over.”

Baker also highlighted in the letter that holding chicks may expose children to life-threatening bacteria, citing fecal tests that revealed how chicks may carry E. coli and salmonella. In addition, PETA is offering their assistance to find a “good, humane way” to keep students off their phones. 

“Please don’t fail chicks and students by continuing with this plan.”

Will PETA’s letter move the city of Bandung to free the chicks? Watch this space for more updates as we get ‘em.

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