A petition has been launched in an attempt to get the popular shopping mall to cancel the activity, which would see the hatching of live chicks from eggs in incubators in one of the center’s empty retail units.
The Happy Chicks event will take place from April 3 in the run-up to Easter weekend, and the centre plan on updating the newly-hatched birds’ progress on social media.
Overgate insist the welfare of the chicks is “paramount”, and the educational programme has been set up to encourage children and young people to learn more about a chicken’s life cycle.
Centre management also stipulated a member of staff would be “onsite” throughout the day, and the chicks are to be rehoused to free-range farms across Scotland once the 18-day event has finished.
Animal rights charity People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) slammed the Overgate for touting the event as educational, calling the programme “archaic”.
Director of PETA UK, Elisa Allen, said the charity would be contacting Overgate management, asking them to reconsider holding the event.
She said: “Teaching kids that chicks are novelties to be observed for a short time and then disposed of is a lesson in insensitivity to which no thoughtful parents would expose their children.
“PETA is contacting the shopping centre to ask that it reconsider its use of sensitive, delicate animals who could otherwise be raised by their mothers – who, in nature, rotate their eggs up to 30 times a day to maintain the proper temperature, level of moisture, and positioning.
“Hatched in an incubator, chicks can become deformed because their organs often stick to the sides of their shells when the eggs are not turned properly.
“Are the children told that after the stress of being hatched amid bright lights and concrete, these chicks will be packed off to a farm and slaughtered just a few weeks later? Such displays are ignorant, archaic, and cruel and it’s shameful and misleading for them to be presented as educational.”
A statement on the Overgate website said: “The eggs come from a government accredited hatchery, which means they would normally be bought by large-scale producers and chicks would be reared indoors in large sheds.
“Our eggs are hatched in a safe environment and chicks both male and female are cared for until they are 5-6 weeks old, at this point they are fully feathered and can then go outside to their coop,and go to free range farms and small holdings all over Scotland where they are free to roam outdoors.
“These chicks are hand reared and become very tame and make great pets, we are not trying to exploit them but teach people about ethical farming with birds allowed to be free in a safe environment and not mass produced in sheds where they never get out.
“Birds such as chickens, ducks and geese are self sufficient from day one and must feed themselves as the parent birds do not bring them food; a chick unable to follow from the nest will be abandoned.
“Chicks hatched in an incubator do not need the parent bird and are perfectly happy as long as they have other chicks for company and we always make sure this is the case.”
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