That California condor chick is out of its egg, the San Diego Zoo reports. The chick is said to be vigorous. The zoo is feeding it a rich diet of finely chopped baby mice.

Hey, wait a minute. Don't mice have rights, too? Just because condors are bigger and scarcer, does that give them a license to eat anybody else who might come down the road? This precedent has ominous implications for all of us who belong to a numerous species.

Perhaps you think that the diet is merely a technical issue, but keep it in mind that this zoo is determined to raise the chick to a healthy, hungry, full-grown bird. Chopped mice may be adequate now, but it's going to want something a little more substantial as time goes on. An adult condor has a wingspread of 9 feet. What does a carnivorous creature of that size live on, as a matter of preference? Our advice to the parents of small children is to keep them well away from the San Diego Zoo until this whole situation is clarified.

Instead of chopped mice, many pediatricians believe that a diet of canned infant formula would have been perfectly satisfactory. But canned infant formula is a matter of great controversy, especially in a state like California where there are strong feelings in favor of the moral superiority of natural food. Chopped mouse may be natural, but is it equitable?

Try to look at the question also from the mouse's point of view. After all, if the mouse were on the verge of extinction, would the zoo be chopping up condors to feed it? The zoo would be on firmer ground, ethically speaking, if it tried the condor on granola bars, or maybe vanilla yogurt with raisins and naturally brown sugar.

The condor egg was taken from the nest, as we understand it, by order of the juvenile court following a finding that the parents were unfit. There is a long and unhappy history of neglect, inappropriate nest behavior and breakage in this case. The court was clearly right to intervene. But it needs to continue to oversee the character of the foster care now being provided. This mouse business suggests that the zoo, in loco parentis, is merely continuing the same dietary and cultural patterns that brought the chick's unfortunate parents to their present condition. How much more elevated a scene it would be if the zoo were starting the chick off in true California style on unsweetened corn flakes covered with rich creamy goat's milk. The zoo is caring for the chick's physical needs, but that is hardly sufficient. It now has a splendid opportunity to begin elevating the moral standards of all condors as well.