Hens should be kept in bigger cages, orders High Court

So that the birds can move around comfortably; report to be submitted before the next hearing in Feb

November 06, 2018 01:35 am | Updated 01:36 am IST - New Delhi

Currently, the hen cages do not meet the size requirements under the law for animal welfare, said the HC.

Currently, the hen cages do not meet the size requirements under the law for animal welfare, said the HC.

The Delhi High Court has suggested that hens should be kept in cages which are bigger than the existing small wired ones so that they are able to “move around comfortably”.

A Bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V.K. Rao gave the oral observation while hearing a batch of petitions filed in public interest litigations (PILs), which claimed that keeping egg-laying hens in small wired cages amounts to “extreme cruelty”.

Breeding, transportation

The High Court also directed the Secretary of Environment Ministry to set up and chair a committee to lay down guidelines on the breeding and transportation of poultry birds.

It said the committee should consider the Law Commission’s recommendations on the issue, the suggestions of other States and the views of the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) as also other stakeholders including poultry farmers.

The High Court has asked the committee to submit a report before the next date of hearing on February 5, 2019. “Till a decision is taken, no further battery [small-wired] cages would be permitted to be used,” the court said, adding, “use big cages where they can move around comfortably. They should be able to move around freely.”

The court also observed that presently none of the hen cages meet the size requirements laid down under the law for animal welfare.

A Bench of petitions on the same issue moved by NGOs — Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) and the People for Animals — were transferred from Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh to Delhi High Court by the Supreme Court.

The court had earlier also sought suggestion from the NGOs on giving alternate means that can be employed for caging of the birds. “That apart, we direct the Union of India to ensure that henceforth no new poultry farms or organisations indulge in using the battery operated cages,” the High Court had ordered.

The NGOs have contended in their pleas that under the battery caging system, egg-laying hens are confined to space equivalent to an A-4 size paper sheet. They told the court such cages are still the common method of housing chickens, despite the AWBI suggesting states to phase them out. They have also claimed before the bench that poultry farmers cut of portions of the female chicks’ beaks and they are kept in cramped and dirty cages.

The NGOs, as well as the AWBI, stated that egg-laying hens need much more space than the confined area provided by small cages which are stacked one on top of another.

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