A Good Cage is an Empty Cage

by | May 10, 2024 | Heartivist Of The Week

75.21 billion chickens were slaughtered for meat in 2022, Our World in Data.

“I hope eventually people realize that animals need to be treated with respect too and that as much as humans are able to advocate for other causes animal advocacy is also an important cause to advocate for,” Sanele Ndlovu, Founder of Nurture Imvelo Trust.

How would you like to be treated? Such a simple question with such an easy answer. Every sentient being would answer with the same two words if they had the chance to do it: with respect and kindness. Yet we forget the essential rule to treat others the way we would like to be treated. Unfortunately, animals are voiceless, and for many – especially in animal farming – cruelty is the only reality they will ever know. This is something that Sanele Ndlovu is hoping to change in Zimbabwe through the project, “A Good Cage is an Empty Cage.”

“With the ever-increasing human population is the increase in demand for food. There is a need to address the issue of industrial agriculture where animals raised for food are subjected to intense cruelty. People need to understand that animals are sentient beings too,” says Sanele.

Sanele is the Founder of Nurture Imvelo Trust, an animal welfare organization in Zimbabwe. She studied for a Diploma in Agriculture at Esigodini Agricultural College and a BSc in Animal and Wildlife SC at the Midlands State University. 

Born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, Sanele was the last born in a family of two boys and two girls. It was during her childhood that she developed a special connection to animals as a result of her rural surroundings. 

“I first discovered my interest in animal advocacy at a very young age,” says Sanele. “Growing up in a rural setup where cattle, goats, sheep, and chickens were part of a homestead, I felt uneasy whenever I saw cruelty towards animals. Back then, I didn’t know anything about animal welfare but – later in life – during my work-related learning, I realized that the uneasiness I felt when an animal was exposed to cruelty meant I already had it in me to know that animals are sentient beings, although I didn’t understand that back then.”

Compassion Towards Farm Animals

It was her love for animals and the too-often cruel practices in animal farming that led Sanele to become an advocate and a volunteer board member responsible for gender and programs at the Sibanye Animal Welfare and Conservancy Trust. 

“I realized that there is a huge knowledge gap on animal welfare-related issues among people and there is a high level of cruelty towards animals, especially those raised for food or work,” says Sanele.

It was in 2021 that she decided to create the organization called Nurture Imvelo Trust with the mission of providing food, shelter, and medical care to a wide variety of animals in need, from domestic to donkeys, birds, and cattle. 

Throughout her organization, Sanele has also made it a priority to educate the community on animal welfare issues.

The main problem to be addressed is the lack of knowledge on animal welfare-related issues and not being aware that animals are sentient beings that need to be treated with compassion and respect,” says Sanele. “Speaking specifically in animal advocacy, the subject still seems unreal for many, especially in Africa. Therefore, there is a need to be patient as many still need to understand.”

To improve the welfare of farmed chickens in Zimbabwe, the organization has created a program to end hen caging called, “A Good Cage is an Empty Cage.”

The Most Abused Animal

Chickens are considered one of the most abused animals on the planet; they are slaughtered for their meat when they are only 40 days old and are confined to extremely small, cramped, and unsanitary spaces, according to World Animal Protection

Furthermore, the battery cages where hens that are used for laying eggs live are just 8 by 10 inches, a place where they will remain all their lives without even the possibility to spread their wings, according to Animal Clock

These facts should be of wide concern given that chickens are the most eaten animals in the world only surpassed by fish, with 75.21 billion chickens slaughtered for their meat in 2022, according to Our World in Data with information from 2023 provided by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Moreover, Zimbabwe has a population of 10.5 million chickens in commercial systems, and 90% of households have chickens, but – more importantly – chicken farming is on the rise due to the import of cheap battery cages, according to Animal Ask.

Zimbabwe also made $1.88 million exporting poultry to destinations like Mozambique, Malawi, Botswana, and Rwanda. But it also imported $5.93 million in poultry from Zambia, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Spain, and France, among others, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity.

Cage-Free Chickens

Aiming to reverse the growing trend of chicken farming using battery cages in Zimbabwe, Nurture Imvelo Trust created the project “A Good Cage is an Empty Cage”, a media campaign involving three, other animal welfare organizations in the country: Humane Africa Trust, Animal Advocates International and Sibanye Animal Welfare and Conservancy Trust, who seek to educate and raise awareness on the effects of battery cages on the welfare of layer hens.

“Zimbabwe is still at an education and awareness-raising stage of the battery cages movement as the subject still seems to be new to many. Exposing people to the need to go cage-free through media will shape their mindsets and attitudes,” says Sanele. “I am hoping that these efforts will impact everyone who handles animals in their day-to-day lives because animals ought to live a normal life, like humans, and only humans can offer that to animals.”

The organizations will use different media platforms to get the message across to the community and raise awareness of the effects of battery cages on hens’ welfare. These include newspapers, magazines, television, radio, websites, podcasts, online ads, emails, and social media platforms.

In order to expand the impact of the campaign, Sanele decided to search for funds to post an ad on battery cages’ effects on hen welfare on a digital screen at one of the busiest shopping centers in Bulawayo, the second largest capital city of Zimbabwe. So, she decided to reach out to The Pollination Project and apply for a seed grant.

“I heard about TPP through Animal Advocacy Africa,” says Sanele. “Receiving the seed grant excited us very much because we knew that our wish to post our battery cages ad on the big screen was coming to life. Now that we have our ad on the screen, it feels good to know that someone gets to learn how battery cages impact the welfare of hens.”

The ad will remain on a digital screen for 6 months at a farmer’s market to influence both farmers and consumers. So far the organization’s efforts have already proven to capture the public’s attention.

“We have been getting calls from different people who are interested in learning more about our project and asking how they can positively participate in improving the welfare of hens. Our upcoming project is training animal advocacy organizations in Zimbabwe on how to use social media as an advocacy tool in hen welfare,” says Sanele.

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