Animal-Rights March is Levying a Punishing New Food Tax on the Nation's Poor

Even Country Like USA is Not Left in This Race & the State's New Chicken Coop Law is Hitting Human Beings Hard In country like India, where actual consumers are not aware about poultry farming, where consumer will not pay more for an egg which is produced by hens in "enriched" cages. Where consumers, if given a choice between "enriched" and "normal eggs", will always prefer normal egg, not only because it is cheaper but also for consumers, "egg" is an "egg".

Since childhood, people of our country have been getting eggs from hens, which are always in such types of cages. All of a sudden, for a consumer, making so called animal friendly cages and thus increasing cost of egg will not be acceptable at the market level. Instead of making ruling for farmers, which create "Licence Raaj," Animal welfare societies and Government should educate customers and if consumers start demanding eggs from "enriched" cages then the industry have to provide them. Technically, keeping more than 60 square centimeter space in cages increases the body weight of the birds, which in turn hampers production.

Hence the economics is not only affected by more capital expenditure per bird on cages but also because of decrease of production per bird, increasing the bottom line. In this exchequer, the net effect in increase in cost would be around 35 to 40 percent. India is a country fighting against food inflation. We want everything to be cheaper. This sudden increase in cost of more than Rs1.2 per egg will only increase inflation rate and bring bad name to current government also. Few days back, there was a meeting in the Ministry of Environment New Delhi chaired by the Secretary, Mr. Hem Pande regarding the demand of animal activists to modify the present cage system. The Animal Welfare Board suggested that all new cages should be as per European norms likely with perching rod, more space for birds to flap (around 65 to 72 square inches per bird) and a nest (curtained area within the cage for hen while laying).

The meeting was attended by animal welfare board members, PIL petitioner, Secretary Animal Husbandry, Mr. Sanjay Bhoosreddy, NECC - Aj it Singh IB Group - Dr. Jaiswal, and Harish Garware from Gartech Equipments on behalf of IPEMA. It was concluded by Secretary Hem Pande with a conclusion that India needs its own standards and cannot follow European. Further, it was also decided to meet again to discuss on the subject matter. However, there is no differentiation between California or A type and Battery cages or H Type. He further clarified that all types of cages A or H type, when stacked in batteries of cages are technically referred as battery cages. In another event, Dr. Pedgaonkar, Dr. Deshpande, Dr. Bhende and Raju Bhosale met Hon'ble minister Prakash Javadekar on cage ban issue and the minister taking it positively gave written order to the concerned authority not to issue guidelines without a thorough discussion on the subject matter.

Even in United States of America, California has a way of living up to the worst regulatory expectations, as grocery shoppers across the country are discovering. The State's latest animal-rights march is levying a punishing new food tax on the nation's poor. Similarly, like India, egg prices are soaring in California, where the USDA says the average price for a dozen jumbo eggs is US $3.16, up from US $1.18 a dozen a year ago and in some parts of the state it's more than US$5. The cause of these price gyrations is an initiative passed by California voters in 2008 that required the state's poultry farmers to house their hens in significantly larger cages.

The State legislature realized this would put home-state farmers at a disadvantage, so in 2010 it compounded the problem by requiring that eggs imported from other states come from farms meeting the same cage standards, effective January 01, 2015. The new standards require cages almost twice the size of the industry norm, with estimated costs to comply of up to US$40 a hen. That's about US$2 million for a farm with 50,000 chickens.

Some farmers are passing the costs on to consumers, while others are culling their flocks by half for each cage. Government statistics show that the number of egg-laying chickens in California has fallen 23 percent in two years. Many farmers outside the state are choosing not to sell eggs to California, leaving egg brokers scouring the country for cage-compliant eggs and paying top dollar to meet demand in a state that has imported more than four billion eggs a year. This comes when egg demand is growing in part, because soaring meat prices have caused Americans to turn to other foods.

Per capita consumption is expected to reach more than 260 eggs this year, the highest since 1983, according to the USDA. The poorest consumers have been hit hardest by the price spike because eggs have traditionally been a cheap source of protein. California's cage law is part of the nation-wide animal-rights effort to raise the costs of animal food production in the name of more, well, humane treatment. Groups like the Humane Society of the United States failed to get Congress to pass national chicken-cage standards, so they turned to California to set what they hoped would be a de facto national standard because of the size of its market.

The attorneys general from several states, including Nebraska and Alabama are suing California in federal court, but this will take time. If California liberals want to pay a premium for local free-range chicken eggs, they have that right. They shouldn't be able to raise food costs for millions of families in an attempt to protect the state's economy from their own destructive laws. Indian poultry industry should also fight collectively on this social cause for the welfare of small farmers having marginal piece of land earning their bread and butter from these small cut throat savings for their livelihood.

RAKESH BHARDWAJ





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