Thu, Jul 05, 2012 - Page 3 News List

COA fights for hens’ rights

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

A woman holds up two bowls containing eggs at a press conference in Taipei yesterday. The left contains a regular egg, while the other bowl is an SGS-certified egg from Taiwan’s first company to use humanely raised egg-laying hens from Europe, the Shih An Farm in Greater Kaohsiung’s Alien District.

Photo: Chien Jung-fong, Taipei Times

Council of Agriculture Minister Chen Bao-ji (陳保基) yesterday visited one of the first companies in Taiwan, Shih An Farms (石安牧場), to have used EU standard techniques for raising egg-laying hens humanely and said that the council would promote the practice across the nation.

In February, civic animal welfare group Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST) revealed that an inhumane and unhealthy practice was prevalent in many chicken coops in Taiwan: that of raising two to four egg-laying hens in a battery cage only slightly bigger than a sheet of A4 paper and often injecting the birds with antibiotics or other drugs to enhance their growth.

According to the European Union Council Directive 1999/74/EC passed in 1999, the EU took more than ten years to phase out and ban the conventional battery hen cages across Europe.

About 36.5 million egg-laying hens are raised in Taiwan each year, but most are kept in small cages without enough space to move, the company said, showing that the new hen-rearing facilities built according to the EU standard contained a nesting area, a resting space, a scratching area and a playground, with each hen being given at least 750cm2 of moving space.

“We are happy to see a company that can already achieve the EU standard,” Chen said. “And we hope that the example this company sets can attract more people to adopt more humane practices of hen-raising.”

However, when responding to whether Taiwan will also adopt regulations to ban the use of battery cages, Chen said: “It took the EU countries about twenty years to achieve the current situation of banning battery hen cages, but not all chicken coops have installed such advanced facilities.”

“Our research institutes will begin conducting research to figure out whether the imported facilities are adaptable to the climate and hen-raising practices of Taiwan, and after at least one-and-a-half years [the time needed for an egg-laying hen to grow] if the results are positive, the council will promote such practices” Chen said, adding that he “hopes to see the industry move in that direction.”

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