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Chicken on your plate led short, but a life full of brutalities

mumbai Updated: Sep 14, 2017 10:19 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindusatn Times

As per the Food Safety and Standards (Licensing and Registration of Food businesses) Regulation, 2011, chicken must be reared, transported and slaughtered in humane conditions. (HT file )

The next time you order a chicken meal, consider this. A study of chicken farms in Maharashtra, Delhi and Haryana revealed that birds reared for meat spend short and brutal lives.

A survey by a Pune-based animal rights organisation, Animal Equality, which looked studied the production cycle — from birth to processing of meat — at five farms and three markets between December 2016 and June 2017, found that chicken production violates basic animal welfare and food safety standards.

As per the Food Safety and Standards (Licensing and Registration of Food businesses) Regulation, 2011, chicken must be reared, transported and slaughtered in humane conditions. But the rules are not followed, the study says. One-day-old chickens were stuffed and transported in boxes, fed with drug-laden food to gain weight and killed in cruel and unhygienic conditions.

“After being fed antibiotic-laden feed, which causes extreme weight gain, those who survive are brutally pulled out in groups and weighed by hanging them upside down,” says the study.

It also states that the sudden weight gain due to antibiotics leaves the chicken crippled. The cramped conditions in the cages can cause stress, heart attacks or respiratory infections. Once they reach their maximum weight, they are stuffed into transport truck.

“They are sent on rigorous journeys which last for hours, sometimes days without food or water,” said Amruta Ubale, executive director, Animal Equality.

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Slaughter House) Rules, 2001 states that animals have to be stunned before slaughter. “We found that this is never practiced at all locations surveyed by us,” said Amruta Ubale, executive director, Animal Equality.

The study says that once the birds reach meat markets, they are crammed into small cages. “Many birds develop infections and diseases. There is no health inspection conducted on the birds. Their throats are slit and they are thrown into drain bins where they languish in pain for several minutes before they die. Carcasses are defeathered, hot torched or boiled in water in the filthiest of conditions, the study concluded. The unhygienic conditions of meat markets are also a public health hazard, the study adds.

The Poultry Federation of India (PFI) confirmed unhygienic meat shops violate both food safety laws and laws protecting animals. “The mindset in India still exists where the consumer approaches a meat shop, choose his chicken and asks the butcher to slice it the way he wants. In such circumstances, the consumer mindset needs to change the enhance these laws that are being violated, which is not the case abroad,” said Ramesh Khatri, president, PFI. “However, there are large industries that are following the stunning procedure before killing chickens and also practice the profession in clean and hygienic surroundings.”

HT had reported in February that an investigation into 20 poultry farms across the country by Animal Equality revealed that confining hens in battery cages - small wired cages used by farmers to keep the birds for their entire life, primarily for laying eggs – not only led to a number of deaths, but also deformed and injured the birds feet.

Animal Equality submitted findings of both studies to the Law Commission of India (LCI) along with a list of recommendations for the welfare of chickens. “Our reports also pointed out to the existing animal welfare, food safety and transport laws which are violated,” said Ubale.

A senior official from LCI said that the recommendations were included as a part of proposed guidelines under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Egg Laying Hens) Rules, 2017 and The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Broiler Chicken) Rules, 2017. “After consulting the union environment ministry, we will be releasing draft regulations for inviting suggestions and objections for the rules, later this year,” the official said.

The PFI said it has written to the state government about the use of antibiotics. “We are awaiting guidelines to make laws stricter in the country but it will take at least a few years to sensitise the poultry industry,” said Khatri.

There are also concerns of the issue turning into a dangerous debate like the beef ban controversy. “We are taking several steps to ensure that this industry functions with appropriate standards but to sensitise everyone about correct practices might make it a political issue in a secular country like India,” said AK Sharma, coordinator, PFI.

First Published: Sep 14, 2017 10:19 IST