If we were at McDonald’s, he would be employee of the month. Always in a good mood, he loves meetings and in just a few weeks, managed to become a favourite with all his colleagues. His only flaw: he talks a little loudly (and even has a tendency to scream). Tommy is a very special new recruit at the Montreal SPCA, and he’s a rooster.
He was only two weeks old when he arrived at our shelter last December. He had just been found wandering in the street. We first thought that this tiny ball of feathers was a baby turkey, but then he grew a crest. In the weeks that followed, Tommy grew, learned how to say “cock-a-doodle-doo” (in his own unique way) and established a place for himself in the organization. An employee who lives in the countryside offered to foster him, but it was too late: everyone had already fallen in love with him and he’d become a familiar part of the daily activities at the SPCA. So he spends his mornings free in the cat adoption room while we do the cleaning (needless to say, the felines are fascinated by him) and his afternoons in my office. On weekends, he enjoys the fresh air of the countryside.
Tommy fascinates people! He’s even been featured in the local media and in countless Instagram stories. But did you know that every year, nearly 190,000,000 roosters and “broiler” hens are raised for meat in Quebec? That’s in addition to the 4,000,000 “laying” hens and all their little brothers, male chicks, who are ground up alive just after hatching because males of this breed cannot be used for meat… Although we’re all familiar with chicken breasts wrapped in cellophane, few of us have ever had the chance to get to know a real rooster.
Tommy is special. He’s a dwarf Bantham. Unlike his regular-sized cousins, he can be held in one hand. And since he grew up with humans, he’s very sociable. He rubs against our hands, asking to be petted, squawks when left alone, enjoys sitting on the table during meetings and makes courtship displays to the girls in the office. But most importantly, everyone who meets him soon realizes that Tommy is someone, not something. With his own personality, preferences and habits. Just like cats, dogs and other animals that we view as “companions”.
At the Montreal SPCA, all animals are treated equally. And we fight daily to make this the case everywhere in Québec.
Élise Desaulniers is the Executive Director at the Montreal SPCA, an independent researcher, as well as an animal rights advocate. She is namely one of the instigators of the Animals are not things manifesto which led to an amendment to the Civil Code of Quebec explicitly recognizing animals as sentient beings. She has also published three essays on food ethics, translated into English, Italian and Spanish, and she is often invited to speak at conferences on the topic.