The Humane Society’s recommended that airlines quit carrying newly-hatched chicks sold by big ag producers, saying the trip is hard on young birds and half of them die. The group’s letter to U.S. Postmaster General John Potter, asking for an end to the mailing of chicks, named two of the nation’s biggest sellers of hatchlings — one of them an Iowa business over 90 years old.
Murray McMurray owns the hatchery in Webster City. McMurray says the Humane Society is an animal-rights group, and the letter they wrote to the Postmaster General charges that it’s inhumane to send chicks by mail, and it could increase concerns over avian influenza.
McMurray says the group is wrong on both counts, especially in its claim that half the chicks die during shipping. McMurray says they wouldn’t be in business if that were true, and would never ship birds if they were going to lose half of them. He says there are losses but he’d put it at under one-percent. The owner of Murray McMurray Hatchery points out that baby chicks all come right from the egg, and avian influenza cannot be carried in eggs, so they’re at no risk of carrying the disease.
McMurray also points out there has never been a death in the U.S. from avian influenza, and if it should arrive here from Asia, the public health department has a plan of action should an outbreak occur. “But this isn’t anything that’s happening right now,” Murray says, adding that tens of thousands of people die in the U.S. from flu each year, but it’s caught from other people, not birds or animals.
McMurray Hatchery successfully fought a court battle just a couple of years ago to get the airlines to keep carrying their day-old chicks to buyers all over the country.