Chandigarh, February 7
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) today bared linkages between filthy conditions prevailing in India’s poultry farms and the outbreak of bird flu.




N.G. Jayasimha

Releasing in Chandigarh the findings of their five-year assessment of the Indian chicken meat and egg supply chain, PETA functionaries warned Punjab of the lurking danger, and urged it to implement basic animal welfare standards.

“In 2007, Indian health officials confirmed the bird flu outbreak among the poultry in Manipur. It was admitted that filthy conditions in factory farms could have caused the outbreak of bird flu. We warned the West Bengal government and other states of the consequences of unhygienic conditions in poultry farms. No one heeded to us,” N.G. Jayasimha, PETA’s campaigns manager, today told The Tribune.

PETA surveyed backyard chicken and factory farms in and around Chandigarh, Ludhiana and Amritsar over the past five years and found none was implanting BIS standards for hatchery. PETA’s graphic undercover video footage of crowded conditions in chicken and egg factory farms in India, shown today, documented the inhumane scalding, starvation and mutilation of birds and the potential for the spread of H5N1 virus from chickens to humans.

The findings echoed UN’s concerns. UN task force observer on bird flu has said, “We are wasting time pointing fingers at wild birds when we should be focusing on dealing with the root cause which is clearly to be found in rural poultry practices and farming methods which crowd huge numbers of animals into small spaces.”

If the UN’s take is anything to go by, India is certainly at high risk considering PETA’s disturbing findings - In 2005, about 2 billion “broiler” chickens were slaughtered in India; these birds were crammed by tens of thousands into dark, filthy sheds, where ammonia from their accumulated waste burnt their eyes. The footage also shows how “meat chickens” are pushed to reach slaughter weight in just 40-42 days and how their weak legs, heart and lungs can’t keep pace with their growing body. This causes congestive heart failure among the chickens.

The worst among PETA’s findings is the chickens’ maltreatment at abattoirs. “They are shackled and hung by feet from conveyors in mechanized slaughterhouses. Many are dumped into scalding-hot defeathering tanks while still conscious,” said Jayasimha. Another section of footage profiled the lifecycle of egg-laying hens, who suffer great misery. They are crammed into tiny “battery” cages, where they can’t stretch a wing. Younger chicks have their sensitive beaks cut off with a searing blade in a process called de-beaking.

“Intense confinement and inadequate diets frustrates hens. This causes them to peck at each other, sometimes to death. The poultry industry tackles this problem by searing hens’ beaks,” said Jayasimha said, while also sharing the experience of PETA investigators who noticed shackled chicks dragged through electrified water baths meant to stun them before their throats are cut; in chicken shops, the workers, after slitting the necks of chickens, immersed them into a drum full of scalding hot water while the birds were still fully conscious.

Health minister A. Ramadoss is on record saying that India paid more than $19, 47,619 as compensation for poultry and feed in 2006 and over $2, 23,810 was paid for birds culled in the 2007 outbreak. 

Source: Aditi Tandon Tribune News Service