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The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Centre to have a discussion next month with all stakeholders to resolve the issue of implementing the rules recommended by Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) to prevent cruelty to egg-laying hens kept in wire cages in poultry farms.
“Why is there a delay in dealing with recommended rules of AWBI,” a bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur asked the animal welfare division of Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), and directed that interested parties, including the Board, animal rights activists, poultry farmers and National Egg Coordination Committee should together discuss the issue in September.
Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, appearing for MoEF, assured the bench that the government will take action on the recommended rules of AWBI, saying, “We are considering the rules and need some time.”
The bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said that all the petitions raising similar issues and pending in various high courts across the country be transfered to the Delhi High Court. On July 29, the apex court had sought the Centre’s reply on the rules to prevent cruelty on hens after AWBI, a statutory body set up under the provisions of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, said that the department concerned has not acted on rules recommended by it on caging of hens in 2010 and 2013.
Advocate K K Venugopal, appearing for AWBI, had told the bench that draft rules were recommended twice and latest in 2013 but there was no response from the Centre and perhaps the hatchery and poultry industry is very powerful as many politicians are in the business. The Board had submitted that hens are kept in wire cages in overcrowded condition and there is hardly any space for the movement of the birds.
The board’s counsel had said, “In India, we are still following the battery caging system — small wire cages — for housing egg-laying hens,” which was abandoned by the European Union long back.
Under the battery caging system, egg-laying hens are provided the space equivalent of an A-4 size paper sheet, while in Europe which follows the cage-free system, the hens get space to move around and spread their wings.
“During the breeding season, males become very territorial and guard fixed areas. Dominant males patrol the boundaries of their territory and keep other roosters away from the hens. Subordinate males may occupy areas within the dominant male’s territory, including the roosting area, but without female partners,” the Board had said.