Animal rights activists Tuesday slammed the draft rules on prevention of cruelty to animals for egg laying hens published recently by the Centre, saying they fall short of addressing the most serious risks to animal welfare and are "impractical and unenforceable".
Recently, the Ministry of Agriculture released Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Egg laying hens) Rules 2019 following the order of the High Court, according to which, poultry farms in the country may be forced to give a space of not less than 550 sq cm and cannot put more than 6-8 birds in a cage.
However, criticising the rules, animal rights activists on Tuesday said that the rules merely increase the space given to egg laying hens from 450 sq cm to 550 sq cm, which will still allow egg laying hens to be confined in cramped cages.
Gauri Maulekhi, Trustee, People for Animals said through a statement, "The Rules are a mere eye-wash and must be objected to for their failure to adhere to the basic principles of law, and for failure to further the object of the parent Act (i.e. Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act. The draft rule, by law and sprit is against the orders of the Delhi High Court."
Expressing a similar view, N G Jayasimha, managing director of NGO Humane Society of India said the rules are "impractical and unenforceable".
"Whereas the Rules provide for language indicating bio-security, there are no provisions towards enforceability. The rules are extremely impractical and unenforceable.
"The issues pertaining to bio-security are dependent on the management practices. With battery cages having increased the instances of diseases, a mere introduction of restriction on use of antimicrobials, without checks and balance, is of no utility," he said.
The animal rights activists also said the draft rules will still allow egg laying hens to be confined in cramped cages where they will be unable to perform many important natural behaviours, including walking, perching, dust bathing, nesting, or even fully stretching their wings.
"They will continue to suffer psychological stress as well as numerous physical harms, including bone weakness and breakage, feather loss, and diseases," activists said.
In 2017 the Law Commission of India, had recommended a phase out of battery cages in the country.
The Centre published the draft rules on April 29 following the Delhi high court's April 10 order.
The High Court had asked the government to come out with rules to end cruelty to egg laying hens after it was brought to its notice by animal rights activists that the hens used for production of eggs were reared in small, barren wire cages called 'battery cages' a name given due to the arrangement of cages placed side by side.