In February 2019, taking to four states known for egg production—Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana—Animal Equality India investigated several egg facilities. It revealed the cruel and illegal practices at egg farms across India. And these were the published findings:
Amruta Ubale, Executive Director of Animal Equality, says, “We have seen workers and their children working for long hours at the farm and sometimes they live at the farm. Due to the harmful environment at egg farms, workers are known to contract respiratory diseases like asthma and chronic bronchitis.”
This is Animal Equality’s second study into egg farms. The first, in 2017, exposed the cruel and illegal practices on egg farms and the findings were presented to the government along with a list of recommendations to reduce the suffering of hens. Some of these recommendations were included in the Law Commission’s proposed rules for the welfare of hens.
The organisation also submitted a study on how farmers can transition from a cage to cage-free housing system. The cost of transition to a cage free system from existing infrastructure per bird is between ₹50-60. In Europe, where battery cages are banned and cage-free systems are in use, farmers are seeing their labor and capital expenses come in line with conventional housing systems within just a few months of transition.
Ubale adds, “We also work with food companies and egg producers and request them to move away from cages. Many food companies have started sourcing eggs from cage-free farms and some egg producers have also started expanding their cage-free facilities, proving that this initiative is here to stay. Now we only hope the government also supports this initiative by phasing out cages.”
In a survey conducted by IPSOS, 78% of respondents stated that the government should make stronger laws so that animals used for food are not abused. More and more consumers are becoming aware of the cruelties inflicted on hens and are looking for cage-free eggs or alternative sources of protein.
Ubale adds, “The use of any sized cage in essence violates what are known as the Five Freedoms*, as they don’t enable the animals to express natural behaviours and make the animals uncomfortable, fearful and distressed, as well as more susceptible to diseases. The Supreme Court in its order dated 7th May 2014 embedded ‘Five Freedoms’ in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 thereby making it mandatory.”
About 80% of Indian eggs are produced in commercial egg farms that use cages and the rest 20% come from backyard farms run by farmers, who use a cage-free or free range model by default. Regions and countries across the world are banning cages. It only makes sense for India to do so too. Even our own traditional ways of farming used cage-free systems.
Animal Equality has also requested the government to introduce in-ovo gender determination technology to avoid the brutal slaughter of such a large number of unwanted male chicks, the implementation of a ban on forced molting and the formation of a committee to monitor the welfare of birds at the district level.