The Colours of Cruelty

21 Jan, 2014 | Claudia Mendez Sanabria

Social issues

The most profound minds of all time have felt compassion for animals
Friedrich Nietzsche

As a child in the 80’s I used to walk past street fairs lined with splintering old boxes with a chirping medley of colours inside. Looking in, I could see chicks cruelly painted with a toxic paint called aniline, simply to delight buyers with the curious and exuberant colours.

Several years later I travelled the city in search of this cruel practice. I started in Mercado Uruguay, famous for selling animals. Chickens, hens, guinea pigs, and even a black rooster, stood idle and overcrowded. Yet no sign of the multi-coloured chicks.

I turned to the endless El Alto Market. After asking more than 10 caseritas, and receiving an equal number of directions, I arrived at a place where many animals awaited their similarly uncertain future. Yet no coloured chicks. 
This may be good news. Sergio Lima, who has been volunteering at Animales SOS for the past seven years, confirms that this practice no longer takes place. He tells me that the technique involved immersing the chicks in aniline dissolved in water and leaving the wet creatures to dry in a windy place. Their lifetime typically lasted no longer than 20 days. While the practice of painting them frivolously no longer seems to take place in La Paz, hapless chicks are still sold as objects, stuffed into boxes and left to fester in their excrement. They are generally bought to be used in school laboratory experiments, or simply to quell a child’s tantrum.

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