Small-wired cages being used in poultry farms are killing hens in India, according to a five-month-long survey conducted by Pune-based NGO Animal Equality.
Taking note of the survey, the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) plans to issue show-cause notices to poultry farms using such cages, known as battery cages..
Each cage has a 67-sq inch space, which is less than a single sheet of paper measuring 94 sq inches.
A survey of 20 poultry farms on the outskirts of Mumbai and Pune in Maharashtra, Hyderabad and Haryana by between August and December 2016 revealed confining hens in such cages not only leads to a number of deaths, but also leaves them bleeding, with sores, cracked and deformed feet owing to the wired floor of the cages. Some of them were also found to be missing feathers and suffering from abrasions and skin irritations.
In 2012, the AWBI issued an advisory and recommended the Union environment ministry adopt the draft Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (egg laying hen) Rules and phase out battery cages for egg-laying hens by January 2017. Section 11 (1) (e) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 prohibits confining birds in battery cages. However, the policy has not been adopted yet.
“We found four to eight hens crammed in a cage which was no bigger than two A4 sheets of papers. Urine and faeces of overcrowded cages stacked on the top falls on the birds in cages below,” said Amruta Ubale, executive director, Animal Equality. “Even in 2017, there is no sign of phasing out these illegal battery cages. All countries in the European Union (EU) have banned the cages. But India is yet to make a policy decision on it.”
Along with the survey, Ubale started an online petition on Thursday to free the birds from these cages, which garnered 500 signatures within a few hours. “Battery cages are against our law and our values. The state governments must step in and implement the ban,” she said.
According to a 2015 report by EU, Indian hens are third largest producer of eggs in the world, after China and USA. As per the 2012 Livestock Census (LC) by the department of animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries, total number of egg-laying hens in rural and urban India hatcheries (commercial farms) combined was over 200 million. “We expect a 50% increase in this number in the next census which will be carried out this year,” said Ubale.
Meanwhile, officials from the AWBI said show-cause notices will be issued to all poultry farms under the survey by Friday. “It has been a long-standing issue that we had brought to the notice of the Centre many years ago. Allowing it to continue will spell disaster,” said Dr Chinny Krishna, vice-chairman, AWBI.
“We have decided to ask for explanations from these poultry farms for their cruelty towards these birds. Depending on their response, we will take further action and communicate our stand to the centre,” said Krishna.
Officials from the department of animal husbandry, dairy and fisheries, which is under the aegis of the Ministry of agriculture and farmers, passed the buck onto the Union environment ministry. “While jurisdiction in such matters falls under the domain of the environment ministry, we will examine the issue and give directions to state bodies,” said OP Chaudhary, joint secretary to the department.
WHAT THE ENVIRONMENT MINISTRY HAS TO SAY
“We are aware of the issue and are in the process of making policy changes through a draft notification under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Rules 2016 for these birds. We will invite suggestions and objections from the public before finalising the document. We will be taking stock of the condition of the birds from state government bodies across the country,” said a senior officer from the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).
HOW BAD IS THE SITUATION
Four to eight hens are crammed in a cage no bigger than two A4 sheets of papers.
Hens stepping on each other in an attempt to find space to move
It leads bleeding, and leaves hens with sores, cracked and deformed feet
Overcrowded cages are usually stacked one on top of another, causing urine and faeces to fall onto birds in cages kept below
Hens are missing their feathers and suffering from abrasions and skin irritations, probably due to the high concentration of ammonia in the litter
Litter is collected in huge piles underneath the stacked cages and is disposed of once every few weeks. This leads to diseases among consumers and mortality among birds
(Source: Survey by Animal Equality between August and December 2016)
Rise of egg production in India
According to the data published by the department of animal husbandry, dairy and fisheries in 2015, the total egg production in India increased from 60,267 million in 2009-10 to 74,752 million in 2013-14.
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Phase out battery cages for confining hens by 2017: Centre
Date : 24 Feb 2017