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Culling of 24 free-ranging chickens in Singapore ruffles feathers

Mixed response to cull following noise complaints from nearby residents

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 February, 2017, 1:36pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 February, 2017, 1:38pm

By Toh Ee Ming

As a debate flared up over free-ranging chickens that were put down by the authorities in Singapore’s Sin Ming area, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) revealed that it received 250 complaints islandwide on free-ranging chickens last year, and they were mostly about noise-related nuisances caused by the birds.

The authority also disclosed that it put down 24 chickens that were wandering around the Thomson View block of flats in Sin Ming Avenue, after getting 20 complaints last year from residents there, also mainly about noise.

Responding to queries from TODAY, the AVA added that the free-ranging chickens that are sometimes seen on mainland Singapore are not red junglefowl — an endangered species — though some may resemble them.

“Free-ranging chickens can pose a potential threat to public health, especially if their population is left unchecked. There is a likelihood of an incursion of bird flu into Singapore, as bird flu is endemic in the region,” the AVA said.

The news of the culling in Sin Ming sparked an outcry yesterday, with some residents chiming in online to say that the chickens there had not caused any major disturbances.

Facebook user Pang Jun Heng said that he has been living in the area for 16 years, and “the chickens there just mind their own business and roam around”. “I walk past them almost on a daily basis, they don’t attack anyone or make lots of noise.”

Mr Louis Ng, founder of Animal Concerns Research & Education Society, echoed the views of many online users to say that the killing was the “worst solution”. He warned against such a “knee-jerk” response and added that other measures could have been taken, such as getting people to adopt the chickens, relocating them to Pulau Ubin for rearing, or mediating with the residents.

Mr Ng also stressed the need to get an “accurate sense of sentiments on the ground” to find out if there is an overwhelming majority that still want the chickens there, a point also made by online users.

Mr Ben Lee, founder of nature conservation group Nature Trekker, said that unlike the culling of wild boars, which uproot soil, and aggressive monkeys, which might attack people, the culling of chickens is less justifiable here because they did not cause any serious issues.

However, Assistant Professor Frank Rheindt, from the National University of Singapore’s department of biological sciences, believed that the authorities did the right thing from an environmental perspective.

He explained that it would not be feasible to relocate the chickens to Pulau Ubin — which has a population of red junglefowl — because it would result in a “contamination of the gene pool of the wild stock of junglefowl that we’re lucky to still have”.

“Wild junglefowl are still very precious, and conservationists want to preserve them in their wild state as best as they can. If you create a situation where domesticated or hybrid chickens can inter-breed or hybridise wild junglefowl, it would certainly have a giant effect on the native junglefowl roaming (in Pulau Ubin).”

He added: “Every day in Singapore and across the world, hundreds of thousands of chickens are killed for human consumption, so I do not believe there is a valid ‘animal rights’ argument against the culling.”

Culling of 24 chickens in Sin Ming ruffles feathers