The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Centre to explain why the rules recommended by the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) for preventing cruelty to egg-laying hens kept in wire cages at poultry farms were not being implemented.
“This poultry industry appears to be very powerful,” said a bench headed by Chief Justice of India TS Thakur. It was hearing a petition filed by AWBI, a statutory body set up under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, which alleged that the department concerned failed to act on its recommendations regarding the caging of hens in 2010 and 2013.
“Why are you not implementing the recommended rules? Is there some pressure from the poultry industry?” the bench asked, issuing a notice to the Centre and asking additional solicitor general Maninder Singh to respond to the petition.
The bench also told Singh to find the reasons for the delay in implementing the AWBI recommendations, and fixed August 5 as the date for the next hearing.
Appearing on behalf of AWBI, senior advocate KK Venugopal said there was no response from the Centre, even though the draft rules were recommended twice.
“The industry of hatchery and poultry is probably very powerful because many politicians are in the business. The industry may have prevented the government from going ahead with the recommended rules, otherwise (I can’t see) why they have not responded to the draft rules,” he said.
According to the AWBI, hens were kept in overcrowded wire-cages that have little room for movement. “In India, we still follow the battery caging system — small wire cages for housing egg-laying hens — which was abandoned by the European Union long ago,” he said.
Under the battery caging system, egg-laying hens are provided with space equivalent to an A-4 sized sheet. In Europe, which follows the cage-free system, hens get enough space to move around and spread their wings.
“During the breeding season, males become very territorial and guard fixed areas. Dominant males patrol the boundaries of their territory and keep other roosters away from the hens. Subordinate males may occupy areas within the dominant male’s territory, including the roosting area, but without female partners,” the petitioner contended.