On World Animal Day & during Vegetarian Awareness Month (October), PETA India is releasing eyewitness footage provided by Anonymous for Animal Rights revealing that chickens on farms in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are confined to severely crowded cages and subjected to other routine cruelty.
These facilities are linked to some of the top meat and egg producers in India, including household-name brands. Battery cages remain the most common housing method for chickens used for eggs in the country years after the government body Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) acknowledged that they are illegal and advised states that they must be phased out by 2017.
“Stuffing maimed hens into cages so tiny they can’t even spread a wing and their muscles and bones deteriorate before they’re forced to endure a terrifying trip to the slaughterhouse is unacceptable,” says PETA India Associate Director of Policy Nikunj Sharma. “PETA India is calling on all kind people to reject this cruelty by keeping chicken flesh and eggs off their plates.”
The eyewitness documented that egg farmers repeatedly artificially inseminate terrified hens. Males, who are considered worthless to the egg industry, and other unwanted chicks are burned, drowned, crushed, ground up, suffocated, or thrown into the water on fish farms to be eaten.
Portions of female chicks’ beaks are sliced off with a searing-hot blade without any pain killers, and they’re shoved into cramped, dirty wire battery cages in which each bird’s floor space is smaller than an A4 sheet of paper.
Some farms also starve them in a process called “forced moulting” which was also declared illegal by the AWBI in order to shock their bodies into another egg-laying cycle.
After the hens stop producing eggs, workers pack them into crowded trucks, and many don’t survive the gruelling trip to the slaughterhouse. At chicken-meat shops, workers hold down the birds and cut their throats or chop off their heads. At so-called “modern” slaughterhouses, chickens are shackled and hung upside down before their throats are slit.
PETA India, whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to eat” notes that confining hens to battery cages, mutilating their beaks, and starving them to force them to lay eggs have long been declared violations of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, by the AWBI and that the Law Commission draft The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Egg Laying Hens) Rules, 2017, and The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Broiler Chicken) Rules, 2017, which aim to provide chickens with basic protections, remain pending.
In an August 2018 development, a petition filed by animal-protection campaigner Gauri Maulekhi in the High Court of Uttarakhand against the cruelty of battery cages led the bench to direct the central government to frame The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Egg Laying Hens) Rules, 2017, as well as The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Broiler Chicken) Rules, 2017, based on the Law Commission’s 269th Report.
The court also banned the use of battery cages in the state but, unfortunately, still allowed other cages. Specifically, it said, “Sufficient space should be allowed for the housing of each egg laying hen to permit the bird to spread its wings, stand up straight, turn round without touching another bird or the side of the cage.
The bird must have access to nest box.” Shortly afterwards, the High Court of Delhi directed the central government to ensure that no new battery cages are allowed on farms and to act on the Law Commission’s recommendations and requested a response on the matter from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
In light of the findings, PETA India is calling on the government to stop the practices of battery-cage housing, mutilation, and forced moulting of chickens and to ensure that unwanted chicks are handled according to the methods recommended by the OIE-World Organisation for Animal Health of which India is a member country.
PETA India is also calling on poultry firms to agree to implement “in ovo” sexing technology as soon as it becomes commercially available. This would allow chicks’ sex to be determined in an early stage of embryo development and prevent the large-scale killing of males after birth.
Companies whose practices are described in PETA India’s report include The Diamond Group, Mulpuri Group, Sakku Group, SH Group, Skylark Hatcheries, SR Group, Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Poultry Farms Private Limited, Suguna Foods, and Venkateshwara Hatcheries Private Limited.>