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March 28, 2011

HC-Appointed Committee Directs Government of Maharashtra to Ensure Starvation Force Molting of Laying Hens is Discontinued

Humane Society International/India

Mumbai—The Committee to Monitor Animal Welfare Laws in Maharashtra has directed Maharashtra’s Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairy Development & Fisheries to ensure that all egg-laying poultry farm owners and integrators discontinue the use of starvation to force egg-laying hens into a molt phase. The Committee, appointed by the High Court and chaired by Justice Shri C.S. Dharmadhikari (Retired Judge, Bombay High Court), has instructed the DAHDF to conduct periodic, unannounced inspections of egg farms to check for compliance.

On March 9, the Animal Welfare Board of India ordered all poultry farms to immediately discontinue starvation force molt regimes, stating that the practice is in violation of India’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, and a punishable offence. Humane Society International and Thane SPCA brought the notice to the attention of the Committee to monitor animal welfare laws in Maharashtra.

Starvation force molting, widely practiced on egg production facilities throughout India, deprives egg-laying hens of food in order to rejuvenate their reproductive tracts and stimulate additional cycles of egg production.

Under starvation force molting regimes, food is often withheld for up to 14 days and may be combined with 1-2 days of water deprivation. During a force molt, hens suffer greatly and may lose up to 35 percent of their body weight. This practice of food withdrawal has been widely questioned throughout the world and is already prohibited in Australia and the European Union, and prohibited in the United States by the egg industry’s animal husbandry program.

“We are grateful to the Committee, and we hope that the government of Maharashtra implements the directions of the AWBI and the Committee,” said N.G. Jayasimha, manager of HSI’s factory farming campaign in India. “We are happy to work with the government to bring much-needed animal welfare reforms to the poultry industry.”

Facts

  • Animal Welfare Board of India is a statutory body of the government of India, constituted under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Act, 1960. At present, the AWBI is working under the aegis of Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India.
  • Forced starvation molting dramatically increases the risk of hens' laying salmonella-infected eggs.
  • India’s ban on starvation force molting comes on the heels of a growing movement against battery cage egg production and farm animal cruelty within the country.
  • India’s factory farms confine 140 to 200 million hens in barren battery cages, where each bird lives within a space smaller than a single standard sized sheet of paper.
  • Hotels including Crowne Plaza Today-Gurgaon, Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai, as well as specialty restaurant Hao Shi Nian Nian and celebrity Chef Mako Ravindran have ended their procurement of eggs from caged hens.

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