This article originally appeared on VICE Indonesia.
Remember Oded Danial, the Indonesian mayor who decided that it was a good idea to make primary school students raise chicks to combat gadget addiction? Well, animal rights organisation People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) isn’t too thrilled about his plan to haphazardly hand out chicks to inexperienced students.
The government of Bandung, Indonesia’s second-largest city, launched the pilot project known as “Chickenisation” two weeks ago with 2,000 primary school students aged 9 to 13. Their task was to raise the chicks to adulthood and if they do well enough, win prizes too.
Danial, who masterminded this plan, is now under the spotlight after Jason Baker, vice president of PETA’s Asia chapter, sent him a letter protesting the program. “Using chicks as teaching ‘devices’ to keep children off their devices is reckless and wrong," Baker said. "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 pointed out that without proper training, raising chicks can expose students to E. coli and Salmonella. Baker extended help to the Bandung government to formulate a more humane approach to combating gadget addiction. Danial inaugurated the program on Nov. 21, where he defended the program’s merit as a character-building exercise.
“The Chickenisation program is about more than just drawing students’ attention away from gadgets; it’s also a positive response to the mental revolution involving active, collaborative, and integrative education,” Danial told BBC Indonesia.
This is far from the only time PETA has voiced animal rights concerns in Indonesia. In 2018, PETA criticised the treatment of horses on the tiny tourist island of Gili, where all items for daily life must be brought by boat from larger islands. On Gili, horses bear the burden of transporting these items on land, with long hours and little to eat.
The same year, PETA also expressed disapproval of an eccentric Indonesian military training display held during U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ Jakarta visit. In what was meant to be a show of resilience, Indonesian soldiers cut the heads of live snakes and drank their blood.