Poultry maintenance: New rules worry animal rights activists

The activists say the new poultry rules would not allow the hens to walk, perch, dust bathe, nesting or even fully stretching their wings

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New Delhi: Animal rights activists have criticised the draft of rules published by the Centre under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act for birds that lay and hatch eggs. They say that, in this draft, the most serious threats of animal welfare were ignored. They complain that the new rules are “impractical and not applicable” for poultry.

After the order of the Delhi High Court, the Ministry of Agriculture recently released Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Egg-laying Hens) Rules, 2019. According to the new rules, a poultry farm can be forced to offer at least 500 sq cm area to every bird and the farm owner cannot keep more than 6-8 birds in one cage.

However, while criticising the rules, animal rights activists said on Tuesday that the rule was to increases the minimum area for the chickens from 450 sq cm to 550 cm in poultry. The egg-laying hens will still remain in tight cages of the poultry farm, they say.

The trustee of the People for Animals said in a statement: ” The Rules are a mere eye-wash and must be objected to for their failure to adhere to the basic principles of law, and for failure to further the object of the parent Act (i.e. Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act. The draft rule, by law and sprit, is against the orders of the Delhi High Court.”

NG Jai Singh, managing director of the NGO Human Society of India, shares similar views. Whereas the Rules provide for language indicating bio-security, there are no provisions towards enforceability. The rules are extremely impractical and unenforceable.

“The issues pertaining to bio-security are dependent on the management practices. With battery cages having increased the instances of diseases, a mere introduction of a restriction on the use of antimicrobials, without checks and balance, is of no utility,” he said.

The activists say the draft rules would still allow the poultry farm owners to confine egg-laying hens in cramped cages where they will be unable to perform many important natural behaviours including walking, perching, dust bathing, nesting, or even fully stretching their wings.

“They will continue to suffer psychological stress as well as numerous physical harms, including bone weakness and breakage, feather loss, and diseases,” an activist said.