Chicken domestication in China
Representational imageReuters

The Karnataka Poultry Farmers and Breeders Association (KPFBA) has urged the Government of India to immediately drop the notification called 'Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (egg-laying hens) Rules 2019 as it would have an 'adverse impact' on the entire poultry sector as both the organised and unorganised poultry farmers would end up giving up poultry farming, in due course of time.

The rules by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare are to take effect early 2020. As per the rules, the size of the cages for poultry should not be less than 550 sq cm per bird and 6-8 birds per cage; use of antibiotics only for therapeutic use and under the supervision of a veterinarian; regular inspection of poultry farms by authorised personnel, who should follow proper bio-security protocols etc. The poultry sector has been given 5 years to switch over to new systems.

The KPFBA President, K.S.Akhilesh Babu said," The entire poultry farming community is of the opinion that it will not at all be feasible to implement the notification." The KPFBA has sought more time to switch over to new cage systems. This view has been endorsed by the Director of the Central Avian Research Institute of the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), Dr. A.B.Mondal who in a letter to the government has said there has to be 'relaxation of at least 15 years' for the farmers to switch over from old cages to new ones. He has cited that majority of the poultry farmers would have taken loans to install cages and asking them to switch over now would be further burdening them.

"The non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which have lobbied for the ban of cages have painted a very wrong picture of the poultry sector. Healthy birds mean healthy business for the poultry farmers and they have been continuously improving practices in farms to upkeep hygiene and other conditions. Bird losses for a farmer means loss of livelihood, hence the poultry farmer takes care of his or her poultry," Akhilesh Babu further added.

Akhilesh Babu further said, "Many poultry firms and farmers from Europe come to India to study our farm systems. They find the practices here are 'very good' and some of which they plan to replicate back home." He added that "Research carried out in several countries had demonstrated that 'enriched cages do not have the potential to meet many of the welfare requirements of hens or address key welfare concerns, now or in the future'. The parameters recommended regarding space requirement, behavioural needs and other welfare concerns, are based on studies conducted in temperate countries such as European Union, which are not relevant to India. Further those countries are not production hubs; hence parameters of EU are irrelevant to the Indian climatic conditions. Currently, even the most advanced countries like USA are not following complete ban on cages."

Karnataka Poultry Farmers & Breeders Association [KPFBA] is an Apex body, representing Poultry Farmers & Breeders of Karnataka, India. It was established in 1991 to promote the development of poultry breeding and farming in Karnataka, where the occupation is a major activity. The association is registered under the Karnataka Societies Act 196, u/s 12 A (a) 80G of the Income-tax Act 1961.