Enable consumers to choose healthy farmed chickens: Law panel

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New Delhi, July 10 (IANS) To check unhealthy rearing practices in chicken farms — which have direct consequences on human health, the Law Commission has recommended that the consumers should be enabled to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy farmed chickens through certification.

It has also recommended stopping the indiscriminate use of antibiotics in chicken feed, apart from a review of penal provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.

“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 law panel said in its 269th report titled “Transportation and House-keeping of Egg-laying Hens and Broiler Chickens” released last week.

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“Towards this end, certification by the animal husbandry departments of the states, recognising that the poultry farms follow the practice of cage-free egg farming, is desirable. This would enable the consumer to select the produce obtained from healthy farming,” it said.

The Law Commission stressed that the chickens’ feed must be nutrient rich and “devoid of antibiotics as it affects the consumer food quality standard”.

It said that currently there are no statutory regulations to prescribe the standard, quality and quantity of food for poultry in India which leads to rampant use of antibiotics in the poultry feed.

The Commission had invited suggestions on the issue.

One such suggestion received from Tata Memorial Centre, Mumbai, pointed out that many Indians suffer from antibiotic resistance. It claimed that it is proven that non-therapeutic antibiotics given to poultry cause such resistance and that such antibiotics are given to poultry because their living conditions are cramped and unhygienic.

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Apart from the report, the Commission has also drafted separate prevention of cruelty to animals rules for egg-laying hens and broiler chickens.

As per draft rules, antibiotics, “including coccidiostats, shall not be administered”. If the antibiotics have to be administered for therapeutic purposes, it should be done only under supervision of a veterinarian.

The rules also bar poultry farmers to administer growth promoters to chickens.

The law panel also felt that the penal provisions in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA Act), 1960, need to be revised.

“The PCA Act 1960 largely suffers from weak penal provisions. While the penal provisions pertaining to fine in the Act may have been a sufficient deterrent in 1960, those provisions have lost their significance due to inflation,” it said.

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“…The penal provisions in the said Act are required to be revised suitably. While keeping in view both the health and welfare of the people and the avoidance of pain and suffering of animals, punishment for all offences under the Act need to be appropriately revised,” the Commission has recommended.

–IANS

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