COIMBATORE: Draft rules framed by the Law Commission gave a big push to cage-free poultry farming, saying registered poultry farm owners can label their output as organic produce after proving that their farm is cage-free or free-range.
“With a view to curtail the cruel practices of confining birds in battery cages, it is necessary to have a distinction between the produce obtained from healthy farming of hens in cage-free environment and the produce obtained from battery cage farming,” the draft said, adding this would enable the consumer to select the produce obtained from healthy farming.
Dwelling into the space allowance per bird, the draft recommended that both the hens and chickens should be provided sufficient space for movement without any difficulty to stand, normally, turn around and stretch their wings.
The report further said while there should be sufficient space for all hens to perch and must have a nest box, litter to allow pecking and scratching and access to feed freely, the chickens should not be housed in cages, or kept on wire or slatted floors.
“The maximum stocking density in the chicken farm should be calculated on the weight of chickens per available floor space and the density allowance should not exceed 30 kg per square metre,” the commission recommended.
In a single level house, a minimum of 0.14 sqm per hen and in a house with litter and a raised slatted area, with a perching or roosting area over a droppings pit or belt, the minimum space of 0.11 sqm per hen should be provided. In multi-tier systems with feeders and drinkers on the overhead platform, a minimum space of 0.09 sqm should be provided, the draft said.
All farms operating prior to the commencement of the rules should be registered with the animal husbandry department within three months of it coming into effect. Also, all the farm owners should employ only trained hands who not aggressive or indulge in any other abnormal behaviour, the report suggested.
At least two employees per 10,000 animals should be available at all times to take care of the hens, the draft report said, adding that every farm should make provision for veterinary care that includes emergency medical care.
To facilitate the employees and inspectors to approach the veterinary practitioner, emergency contact details of the practitioner should be displayed at a conspicuous place on the farm. The report, however, left the industry exasperated. A K P Chinraj, president of Tamil Nadu poultry farmers association, said it would be impossible to appoint more than four labourers per 50,000 animals.
“It would not just increase the production cost, but also raise the product cost for the consumers,” said Vagili Subramanian, vice-president of Tamil Nadu egg poultry association, adding it would take a minimum of 20 years to change the infrastructure as per the recommended guidelines. Subramanian said it is not just difficult to maintain the birds but also extremely difficult to safeguard the laid eggs and supply water in free-range farms.
Besides, caging helps prevent water-borne diseases and curbs water wastage, he reasoned.
Also, if all the birds are left free, the number of deaths would increase as there are high chances of bird attacks, he added.
Give them space
Here’s a look at the recommendations of the Law Commission to end the cruel practices of confining birds in battery cages
Panel wants to draw a distinction between healthy farming in cage free environment and battery cage farming
Cage-free farming output can be called organic produce
Hens and chickens should have sufficient space for movement without any difficulty to stand normally, turn around and stretch their wings
Max stocking density in the farm should be calculated on the weight of chickens per available floor space
All farms should be registered with the animal husbandry department
Farms operating prior to the commencement of the rules should get themselves registered within three months of it coming into effect
Farm owners should employ only trained hands who not aggressive or indulge in any other abnormal behaviour
At least two employees per 10,000 animals should be available at all times to take care of the hens