Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Commercialization of poultry during the last 4 or 5 decades has resulted in establishment of large poultry farms holding millions of birds in overstuffed cages so that farm productivity is increased and profits maximized. Though what effect such cramming of birds in cages without giving them adequate moving pace, on the quality of egg and the meat produced, is not known, many consumers still prefer to believe that free roaming birds as in the old style rural farms gave products much superior to the former. The fattening process to increase the live weight of meat animals does involve their immobilization as much as possible to ensure least energy expenditure. However animal protectionists consider such practices abominable and campaign for more humane approach to treatment of captive animals. Recent enactment in the state of California in the US banning the practice justifies the stand taken by the animal welfare protagonists.

"The bill, A.B. 1437, requires that all whole eggs sold in California as of Jan. 1, 2015, come from hens able to stand up, fully extend their limbs, lie down and spread their wings without touching each other or the sides of their enclosure, thus requiring cage-free conditions for the birds. "By signing this bill, Governor Schwarzenegger has taken an important step in protecting animal welfare in a way that will also improve food safety for consumers across California," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. "Californians have made it clear that they don't want unsafe eggs from hens crammed into cages, and we applaud the Legislature and governor for heeding this call."

While such symbolic gestures may satisfy many, it raises the fundamental question whether animals have any right to live at all in a world where human beings wield brutal power in terms of intelligence and aggression. Of course many people who are vegetarians by choice or by tradition acutely feel about the injustice meted out to animals raised for food purpose since the plant resources available in this planet for food are more than adequate for meeting the needs of the entire population. The sheer inefficiency of the animal system in converting agricultural feed materials into meat and the large carbon foot print associated with animal breeding are other rational issues for shifting to plant foods with compelling reasons. While present generation of meat eaters may find it difficult to go for such a shift, at least it is a desirable goal to wean the children away slowly from meat foods.


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