Newborn birds are routinely shipped through the mail, including airmail, as “perishable matter.” They are shipped and treated like luggage. Postal regulations require only that the birds be delivered to the receiver (game fowl breeders, 4-H, commercial laboratories, etc.) within 72 hours of hatching, with no provisions for food, water, or weather. As a result, millions of baby chicks, ducklings and other “poultry” are delivered dead and dying each year. Unclaimed birds may be left to die, suffocated in plastic bags, and otherwise cruelly disposed of. Postal workers who find boxes of dead and dying baby birds shipped through their facility are forbidden by law to intervene. Avian veterinarian Joanne Stefanatos, DVM explains: “The stress of improper housing, shipping and transport, malnutrition and water deprivation is directly responsible for the high mortality rate of chicks and hatchlings. There are numerous volumes of research papers to confirm this fact.”
Responding to complaints from animal advocates, postal service employees, and others including FedEx (which took over the Eagle Service previously run by the US Postal Service and which doesn’t want to ship birds as mail), the US Postal Service made mild changes requiring that the shipment of all live animals be coordinated through central offices to ensure their arrival, and setting a 4-hour limit on ground transportation.
In response to these modest proposals, Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa has introduced S. 2395, a bill that would force the US Postal Service to accommodate the industry trade group Bird Shippers of America and its member associates including game fowl breeders, cockfighters, and poultry mail order hatcheries. S. 2395 would:
1. Force the US Postal Service to require certain
airlines to transport birds.
2. Require those airlines to transport birds through connecting cities, not necessarily on direct flights.
3. Require those airlines to transport birds in any temperatures between 0 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Contact your US Representative and your two US Senators and urge them to oppose S. 2395. Explain that birds should not be treated as common cargo, and that above 95 degrees F. chicks become dehydrated. Names and contact information for all US Members of Congress can be found at www.senate.gov or www.house.gov. Or call the 24-hour Capital Switchboard at 202-224-3121 for this information.
- Contact US Postmaster General John E. Potter and urge the Postal Service to stop shipping live birds. At the very least, food and water should be made available to each bird within 4 to 6 hours of hatching; transportation of chicks should not exceed 4 hours, and air transportation of newly hatched chicks should be prohibited.
The Honorable John E. Potter
Postmaster General & CEO
US Postal Service
475 L’Enfant Plaza SW
Washington, DC 20260-1000