Completed course on chicken welfare and behavior through University of Edinburgh

Recently completed this informative short on line course through the University of Edinburgh. 

The course is run through Coursera and is free, unless you want to pay a smallish fee for a verified certificate. 

If you have chickens as pets, or work with chickens, I recommend the course. There are a few things I did not agree with, and feel we have kinder techniques to deal with some behavioral issues, but for the most part, I found it interesting and beneficial. 

Let us know if you do end up taking the course! 




94.7 breakfast express vegetarian continued. Jessica Prinsloo writes to the breakfast team about their levels of disrespect ……

Hello Team


I didn’t hear the discussion you had on Vegetarianism but it was brought to my attention through a few of your vegetarian listeners. They claim that you were insensitive and disparaging towards vegetarians and vegans and although I cannot find the podcast to hear it for myself, judging from the response on Facebook it’s plain to see that this was the stance you took.


I am neither vegan nor vegetarian. So I’m not writing to you to tell you all the ethical, health related, agricultural and sustainability related pros that vegetarianism provides – of which there are many. Nor am I writing to defend my lifestyle choices over theirs.


I am writing to you because in your position as radio presenters you have an ethical responsibility regarding what you broadcast to the public. You hold influence. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be on the radio. So I find disparaging an entire group of people absolutely deplorable. You should be ashamed of yourselves. Let’s imagine the same ‘jokes’ were being made about gays, Jews, blacks, women, or, say, fat people. Does that just seem wrong? I bet you wouldn’t dare. How is it in any way justifiable to make fun of vegetarians? Are they for some reason less deserving of respect? Are they not allowed to make their own choices?


You may go so far as to think, “Well, being gay or black is not a choice.” But why are you promoting bigotry on any level when you should be preventing it at all costs? You may think me overly-sensitive and that the conversation was in jest so I should lighten up. There was a time that black people were systematically ridiculed. I wonder if anyone ever told Mandela to lighten up? Yes, I am using hyperbole to make a point. You have the power to spread tolerance, in a country that so desperately needs you to do so and yet you choose the path of denigration. Shame on you.


I do not write to you as an animal activist, or to promote or defend vegetarian, non-vegetarianism or any other lifestyle choice. I write to you in the hope that you bring educational value to the topics you present in the future so that listeners are encouraged to make informed decisions instead of blindly following your personal agenda. I write to you to defend the right of people to make their own choices and not be arbitrarily judged for doing so. I write to you in the hope that you think twice before making it seem that derision of any person’s race, lifestyle, caste or creed is anything other than abhorrent. I write to you in the hope that you use your platform to be advocates of tolerance in the future.


Thank you for your time.

Jessica Prinsloo

94.7 vegetarian discussion continued …. Read activist Alexa Wilson’s letter to the breakfast team

Hi team,

Just a quick email from a vegetarian who listened to your show yesterday. Generally I avoid the conversations surrounding vegetarianism and veganism because much like political debates or conversations about religion they are often fueled with opinions and end up getting nasty.

I have to say though that your blatant disrespect about the subject probably shows the level of maturity that each of you possess. The snide comments about vegetables feeling pain express a lot about the teams ability to empathize with others and their thoughts.

More than anything it was just disappointing coming from a group of people who have the power to send out positive, tolerant messages. I know it was all veiled in humour and so perhaps your argument would be that we should all lighten up about it.

I know others have emailed in and have enlightened you as to not only the immense suffering that goes on in slaughterhouses across our country, but the environmental impact that factory farming has on our planet, world hunger and sustainability.

So next time you guys feel that you have an important message about tolerance or about environmental sustainability in our developing, poverty and hunger stricken country, please excuse me while I switch over to another radio station.

Alexa Wilson

94.7 breakfast express vegetarian ‘discussion’, and Sone Besters great letter to them

Yesterday morning, the popular Johannesburg 94.7 breakfast express show, which is a light show, chose to bring up vegetarianism/ veganism as a topic for morning ridicule. A very serious topic for a very un serious show.

I listened for a while and got increasingly angry as the presenters and callers as they laughed and mocked the choice not to eat meat. As I was about to turn off my radio they asked for a vegetarian to phone in. I did, and managed a few minutes of airtime on the subject – pro Vegan of course. The presenters, at the time, were fairly respectful, and as the show has a wide listenership, I hope my words touched someone out there.

However one minute after my call, they were back at their disrespectful banter. Here is a radio team that supports killing and the ridicule of belief systems. It’s not a radio station I will be supporting again.

I kept thinking afterwards, how these 3 or 4 radio personalities are influential, and they could really make a difference too the lives of so many animals if they chose to advocate Vegan. I was left saddened by what I heard, saw on their FB page.

Their FB page was littered with this disturbing and deeply disrespectful content…….


There were a few lone voices …..

And then there was Sone Besters letter e mailed to the team …….

Dear Breakfast Xpress Team,
As a regular listener and supporter of your show I was deeply saddened and upset by the way you handled the topic of vegetarianism this morning. I must admit, I did not listen to the whole conversation about it as I was too offended, but I did hear what you had to say from the BBQ bit up until the first listener called in.
If I was not on my way to drop my son off at school, I would have loved to call into the show to give you some much needed insight into the topic. However, because this issue is close to heart I feel it is necessary to write you an email with some information about the topic.
Did you know that a plant-based diet is not only ethical and prevents the suffering of millions of sentient animals each year, but it has an enormous impact on reducing one’s carbon footprint.
One of the arguments raised was that plants have feelings too. That was quite the willy-nilly statement to make as I have never heard of plants forming social structures, tend to its injuries like an animal, nor squirming or screaming in pain and avoiding it at all cost. Furthermore, if you look at statistics it is the meat-eater whom is actually indirectly using more plants than if you would by eating and using them directly.
“Farmed animals are fed more than 70 percent of the grains grown in the U.S. It takes 4.5 pounds of grain to make 1 pound of chicken meat and 7.3 pounds of grain to produce 1 pound of pork. Approximately 700 calories worth of feed are needed to produce just one 100-calorie piece of beef. It is more efficient and economical to eat grains and soybeans—and all the foods that can be made from them—directly rather then feeding them to farmed animals so that we can eat those animals. Around 1.4 billion people could be fed with the grain and soybeans fed to U.S. cattle alone. A 2002 E Magazine article estimated that the amount of feed needed to produce just one 8-ounce steak would fill 45 to 50 bowls with cooked cereal grains.” – It is therefore not surprising that even the UN is starting to recommend a plant-based diet, as due to excessive population growth, eating meat is becoming more and more unsustainable. 
It also takes about “12 times as much land, 13 times as much fossil fuel, and 15 times as much water to produce one pound of animal protein vs. one pound of soy protein” –
Another argument, which I saw was posted by a supporter on your Facebook page was that we were made to eat meat and have canines for that exact purpose. The person has clearly never seen the canines on a gorilla or a hippo, both whom follow strict plant-based diets and consume no meat.
I chose to not include bloody and gory images of animals being abused and slaughtered as that is too offensive for the unsuspecting eye and I do believe that it is your own personal choice whether you want to subject yourself to such imagery. I have also found that such “shock tactics” to educate tends to do more harm than good.
Being vegetarian or vegan is not an easy decision, and as for myself, as an Afrikaans South African whom was raised on meat, meat and more meat, it is more of a sacrifice. Let’s face it, meat is yummy. However, once you become informed about the topic of animal suffering in slaughterhouses your once beloved piece of meat starts symbolizing much much more than just instant gratification. This is not always the case for everyone and for the majority, unfortunately, compassion does not become first priority. Whether this is because of not wanting to be informed as the reality is just too gruesome and upsetting, or whether you do choose to be informed, yet still choose otherwise. However, this decision should still be respected as it remains a personal choice and as such a vegetarian’s choice of his lifestyle should be respected and not ridiculed on radio by public figures whom have considerable influence on people’s perceptions and opinions.
I hope that you find the email informative and would hopefully in future approach the topic with a little more understanding and sensitivity.
Best regards
Soné Bester 
I wonder if Sone will get a response to her well crafted letter?  
Thank you Sone for taking the time to speak out and up for those that don’t have a voice in our society. 
Regardless of wether you heard the show or not, if you would like to express your view on this matter, and let this station know this behavior is not ok, and it is an offensive view too many people out there – here is their e mail adress

The sixth deadly sin committed while living unconciously – supporting the egg industry

Plett and end April 2011 033

Running a Chicken Rescue organisation this is a topic close to my heart. I have rescued many ex battery hens, and I have witnesses first hand over and over again the abhorrent nature of this industry.  An industry that uses and abuses these noble birds in conditions which are wholly inadequate to meet even some of their basic needs, and spits them out to meet a grim end.

The majority of eggs sold in the supermarkets and smaller retail outlets are bought for re sale from factory farming outlets called battery farms. The hens in battery would have been brought up in large overcrowded hatcheries and put into cages with a wire floor space no bigger than an A4 piece of paper for the next year of their lives from laying age (approximately 5 months).  They would have shared this space with 2 to 3 other hens. No grass, no sun, no sky, no dust to dust bath in, no space to exercise or spread their wings. At day 1 they would have had a portion of their beaks seared off with a burning hot blade to eliminate pecking and bullying each other in overcrowded, stressful conditions – no pain meds, after damage care, or anaesthetic.  After a year of egg production under trying conditions, theses hens are sold for pets mince, composite chicken products (chicken nuggets or burgers) or informal slaughter in poorer communities. The final clearing of the battery houses and transportation to their final destination is a callous affair, leaving bruised and broken bodies.

In a medium to small type enterprise, you can have up to 100 000 hens confined. The processing of these numbers leaves little room for compassion or care.


Buying and eating eggs from a battery facility is an absolute ‘no no’. It is an unhealthy practice for both you and the chicken.

So what about free range? The free range egg industry is a minefield to negotiate, as the term ‘free range’ can often refer to barn raised hens. Large warehouse type facilities where the hens can walk around inside, but are still denied natural light, a place to dustbath, grass etc, but also fall victim to massive overcrowding. They still would have had their beaks seared, they will still be cleared out after a year to a year and a half, and they are still disposed of in gruesome ways. Free Range can also mean they have access to an outside area, but again the conditions are crowded, and they are certainly not living in meadow type conditions, Often concrete flooring for easy control of hygiene levels.

I have to stress, the egg industry ONLY makes financial sense in large numbers. There is not a great mark up on eggs, and therefore limiting your financial input  while gleaning as much as you can out of your hens, becomes the target. Once this happens, corners are cut, and your hens become products, not sentient beings with emotional, physiological and psychological needs to fill.

So, is free range better than battery? Yes, it is. Is free range devoid of cruelty? Absolutely not. What is the solution? In my books, its simple – cut eggs out of your diet, then I can ensure I am not buying into this cruelty. If you still feel you need eggs, have two or three of your own rescue laying hens (if you can provide them with what they need), or investigate your local small farm set ups. However, I can tell you, that to date, I have still not found a local producer in South Africa, where all cruelty is eliminated. There are substantially better set ups than others, but nothing I would choose to support.

Rachel day 1 - This is generally what an ex battery hen looks like when we receive them. Abused, a little featherless, damaged feathers, skin tears, often sick, sore feet, long nails, whitish comb, and grey around the eyes, droopy comb - the list continues
Rachel day 1 – This is generally what an ex battery hen looks like when we receive them. Abused, a little featherless, damaged feathers, skin tears, often sick, sore feet, long nails, whitish comb, and grey around the eyes, droopy comb – the list continues
Rachel recovered
Rachel recovered – 6 months later

Read some of our other posts, we have posted a lot on this subject over the years.

5th Deadly sin committed while living unconsciously – pleasure and leisure activities involving animals

Let me attempt to define what I mean by pleasure activities involving animals. This is any activity that involves an animal, or animals, that humans derive pleasure or gratification from, where the animal/s involved have

  • Either been trained into submission over time to partake in the required activity
  • Forced against their will to partake in whatever is being required of them
  • Removed from a situation that is healthy for that animal to a situation that is far less desirable for that particular animal or animals

In short abuse and domination by human beings are at play.

There has been a solid amount of research done on the link between animal abuse and human abuse. So much so, that in certain States in the USA and New Zealand, the animal shelters and domestic violence units are starting to work in conjunction with each other. Invariably when a case of animal abuse or neglect is reported it is an indicator of abuse going on in the home amongst the people living there, and visa versa.

“a history of animal abuse was found in 25% of aggressive male criminals, 30% of convicted child molesters, 36% of those who assaulted woman and 46% of those convicted of Sexual homicide (Petrovoski 1997)’.

you can also visit the following website for more information on this interesting topic

“Too many law enforcement officials still don’t realize that violence is violence,” said   Ponder. “Animal cruelty is wrong in its own right, but it also can lead to eventual violence against people if it is ignored.”

For more information on The HSUS’ First Strike! Campaign, visit The HSUS’ web site,

Week after week, I see acquaintances and Facebook friends posting pics of their kids catching fish with captions reading ‘Bert’s first catch’. Then the nauseating comments that follow ‘well done Bert’, ‘like father like son, what a catch’. Really? Let’s re phrase this ‘Bert’s first kill’. If these are the levels of compassion being role modelled for our kids, and the activities sanctioned and encouraged by parents, then its little wonder our world is full of violence, intolerance, hatred and disrespect.

Does this mean young Bert is going to end up a serial killer, child molester or sexual predator? Probably not, however the line between killing that fish, hunting that antelope, and hurting or bullying (verbal or physical) your family pet and then your peer, friends (or partner in later life), becomes a finer line than it was before.

So some of the cruel activities we support in pursuit of pleasure needs to be interrogated if we are to start eliminating the circle of violence in our society. This does not mean if you have at any stage supported the following, you are on a slippery slope downhill, however if you are not prepared to take a look at what sits behind these activities, acknowledge them for what they are, and take a personal stand against supporting them, then that, for me, is a worrying mindset.

These are some of the activities that come to mind – horse racing, rodeo, running with the bulls, bull fighting, dog fighting, cock fighting, sea world, petting zoos, zoos, live animals in education, snake milking, snake charming, hunting, fishing, circuses that use animals, elephant interactions, petting baby lions, religious ceremonies, such as Kapparot involving the use of live chickens and the Gadhimai festival in Nepal, bug collecting boxes, And of course if I really want to open a can of worms, eating animals measures up against the criteria I have outlined above.

Let’s have a look at some of these leisure and pleasure pursuits in more detail.

Hunting and fishing are pleasure activities. Both are activities where the individual involved gleans a measure of excitement and pleasure off killing. There are very few hunters left in the world that hunt purely for survival, and they are certainly not the hunters who may end up reading this post. Hunters throw in the out of date ‘conservation’ argument, the ‘I eat everything I shoot’ argument, the ‘at least I have the guts to kill my own food’, ‘I do it cause I love being close to nature’ blah blah. At the root of it all, is a pleasure based activity which involves suffering and death.

I have yet to see a hunter being dragged out on a weekend hunt with his/her mates crying out ‘oh I really wish I didn’t have to do this, but the lions of South Africa need me to pick off one of their family members for my wall’, ‘oh I really wish I did not have to spend large amounts of money on this expensive rifle – would have much rather given the money to my favourite charity!’.

Let’s stop pretending that hunting and fishing are anything other than a sport that comes at great cost to animal at the end of the barrel or line. There is no altruism in hunting/ fishing, for the most, it is an entirely selfish pursuit. What greater disrespect to another being on this planet than to take its life for fun.

Whenever and wherever animals are at the core of a large and lucrative business, there invariably becomes an animal rights and animal welfare infringement or multiple infringements. So when gambling, a highly addictive and very lucrative business for those at the top, is thrown in the mix, we start to get ‘animal welfare disaster’ industries popping up, such as horse racing, rodeo, cock fighting, and dog fighting.

Theme parks, petting zoos, circuses, snake milking, snake charming and zoos provide a central gathering place for people to have picnics, meet friends, and entertain themselves and their children off the suffering and incarceration of other species. Again, these are businesses that derive their income from the abuse of animals. Parents, have you ever considered what animals in a petting zoo are exposed to? These animals are handled throughout the day, with little time to eat, rest or groom, fundamental to the health and wellbeing of any creature. They are most often subjected to the inexpert and unsupervised mishandling by your children, leaving them bruised and often injured.

A popular party activity for kids in South Africa in the more affluent homes, is to hire a travelling petting farmyard to come to your home. The truck arrives with a calf, 2 lambs, some cute bunnies and a sheep or two. A temporary pen is set up in the garden to house the animals for the afternoon. The birthday girl or boy is then offered the treat of feeding the calf or one of the lambs with a bottle. These stressed out babies are further stressed through inexpert feeding, over petting, and constant handling. There is little time for rest for a working baby. The owner of one of these business proudly stated he can do up to 4 parties a day.

So 8 ½ years ago I hired a petting farmyard for my daughters second birthday. What a stressful party, mostly for the animals that were brought along, but also for me, as the jaw dropping horror of what these animals were going through dawned on me through the afternoon. I also realised that the young calf brought along was a one week old calf, victim of the horrific dairy industry. Calves are pulled from their mothers within the first 24 hours. They are either hand raised to go back into the dairy industry or raised till 18 weeks for veal. This baby had been pulled from his mother, put to work, and within a few weeks of him growing too big to be a safe and cute party calf, he would be sold for slaughter. The lambs where in a similar predicament. How else does one ensure that the stars of your show remain cute and cuddly indefinitely?

Bug boxes! What a silly idea for the unfortunate bugs that get crammed into a box to be observed and studied. Why can you not just observe the bug with your kids while it goes about its daily business? Most bugs live such short lives, and taking them out of their finely balanced daily routine geared for survival is just unnecessary, and cruel. And again, bug boxes are aimed at the younger consumer, who has limited co-ordination and who’s fine motor skills, not so great – which inevitably leads to the loss of a delicate wing, leg or both. Too often I have seen forgotten bug boxes thrown randomly into a toy box with an equally forgotten dead bug inside.

Using animals in ritual slaughter? Not ok. It is a purely selfish pursuit, and is a pleasure activity. It is not essential to our survival and often makes no sense. The Jewish ceremony Kapparot, is a case in point. Kapparot is an atonement ceremony, a time to cleanse the sins of the family. The ceremony is usually performed by swinging a live rooster or hen above the person who is being cleansed and then slaughtering the chicken who has taken on the sin, thereby removing sin from the sinner (?!). I have written often on the animal welfare transgressions inherent in the Kapparot ceremony. Again, we look at the selfish and self-serving nature of this ceremony, specifically when a cruelty free alternative is offered, which serves more than one person. Take money, put the sins of the family onto the money and give the money to someone in financial need.

posted on FB, Kapparot ceremony - photobomb with chicken. Pleasure activity?
posted on FB, Kapparot ceremony – photobomb with chicken. Pleasure activity?
posted on FB, Kapparot ceremony preparations. I find this pic particularly disturbing, and deeply disrespectful
posted on FB, Kapparot ceremony preparations. I find this pic particularly disturbing, and deeply disrespectful

I am not outlining the cruelty in every one of these industries, there is tons on-line that has been written about this before, and with more expertise than I give to it. There are numerous documented cases of animal cruelty to give us more than enough information to make an informed and cruelty free choice when choosing your next leisure activity (see our first deadly sin committed while living unconsciously on elephant interactions).

The fourth deadly sin committed while living unconsciously – buying down/ feather products

So our 4th deadly sin is buying

  • Down duvets
  • Down pillows
  • Down clothing
  • Feather trim
  • Feather boas
  • Feather angel wings
  • Feather accessories
  • Feather dusters

These items are not made from down or feathers collected in the malting season or a byproduct of meat production, as the industry would have you believe. This is a cruel and disgusting industry all on its own. Described below is an excerpt from Peta’s website on the harvesting of down.

‘The coldhearted and cruel down industry often plucks geese alive in order to get their down— the soft layer of feathers closest to a bird’s skin. These feathers are used to produce clothing and comforters, but for geese, the down industry’s methods are anything but comfortable.

Undercover video footage shows employees on goose farms pulling fistfuls of feathers out of live birds, often causing bloody wounds as the animals shriek in terror. The frightened animals are often squeezed upside down between workers’ knees during the painful procedure—in one instance, an investigator photographed a worker who was sitting on a goose’s neck in order to prevent her from escaping.

Live plucking causes birds considerable pain and distress. Once their feathers are ripped out, many of the birds, paralyzed with fear, are left with gaping wounds—some even die as a result of the procedure. Workers often sew the birds’ skin back together without using any anesthetics.

That’s not all—buying down can also support the cruelty of the foie gras and meat industries because many farmers who raise birds for food make an extra profit by selling their feathers as well. At the slaughterhouse, many of these birds are improperly stunned, which means that they are still conscious when their throats are cut and they are dumped into the scalding-hot water of the defeathering tank.’

The descriptor above is quoted from PETA – follow link for video footage

This is the one area, you absolutely cannot justify supporting! We have advanced synthetics and cotton available to us that are hypo allergenic, cooler (or warmer if you prefer), and easy to wash, and in most cases, kinder on the wallet. Your genuine feather feather duster has an effective synthetic substitute. As for feathers as a fashion accessory (earrings, feather boa, feather trim, angel wings)? The market is flooded with fashion items at affordable prices. Feathers belong on live happy healthy birds, not on your body!

Don’t perpetuate this cruelty by buying feather and down products.