NEERI pitches for cage-free housings in poultry farms

September 6, 2017

New Delhi: Poultry owners should understand that animals raised for food too deserve to live free from cruelty, and so, layered battery-cage systems in India’s poultry industry should be replaced with cage-free housings in a phase-wise manner, according to a report by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI).

NEERI, a central government institute, also said that suitable rebate in tax or subsidies may be given to poultry farms to encourage owners to give up the present caged system.

Union minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju expressed concern on the matter and wrote a letter to union environment minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, requesting him to take action.

“I have received a note which expresses concerns about the unhygienic conditions in the poultry industry and major health hazards for both—humans and animals on account of this. The note highlights serious negative implications on the animal’s health and also on humans who work and live in these unhygienic conditions,” Rijiju said in his letter on 28 August.

India’s poultry industry is worth billions of rupees. The total poultry population in India is 729.2 million. 

Meanwhile, the study further recommended that Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), India’s nodal body for welfare of animals, may suggest changes to laws and rules about animal welfare issues.

“Rules and regulations regarding the use of antibiotics must be regularized and their implementation must be ensured by the government,” the NEERI report said.

It recommended regulation of use of antibiotics in poultry farms. Last week, a report released by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) warned that misuse of antibiotics in poultry farms is leading to multi-drug resistant bacteria which is spreading into the environment through unsafe disposal of poultry litter and waste in agricultural fields, with the potential to infect human beings.

“The cage-free system provides enough space for movement of hens and the kind of environment required to express their natural behaviour. Poultry owners and the consumers should understand that the animals raised for food too deserve to live free from abuse and cruelty,” said the report.

The report recommended that, “layered battery-cage systems should be replaced with cage-free housings in a phase-wise manner” and that “to encourage the existing poultry farm owners to make changes in the present caged-system, suitable rebate in tax or subsidies may be given to the poultry farms” who adopt new systems. 

“All new poultry farms should follow cage-free system since beginning. Concerned licensing departments should be instructed in this regard. Cleanliness and maintenance of the sheds in poultry farms should be ensured periodically,” the report said.

“Farmers use the excreta (mix of bird’s excreta and liquid waste) as manure in the agriculture fields. However, its toxicity should be tested before use as manure,” it added.

The report also said that “poor poultry workers and local residents living in or around the vicinity of poultry farms are more prone to catch the bacterial and viral infections” and suggested that “certain guidelines be framed to define the vicinity of the poultry farms”.

“The NEERI report reiterates what HSI India has been stating all along. Factory farming facilities pose unacceptable risks to public health and the environment. Several other studies have shown that the crowded, stressful and unsanitary conditions typical of these facilities are ripe for the development of disease, including avian influenza. It is time the Government of India notifies the recommended rules in the interest of public health, environment and animal welfare,” said N.G. Jayasimha, who is the managing director of the Humane Society International (HSI), India. HSI India is an NGO working on animal rights.