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Taiwanese Students Dress as Hens for Poultry Welfare

17 April 2014

TAIWAN - Students at Chung Yuan Christian University have protested in view of the Council of Agriculture by dressing up as chickens and demanding healthier living environments for laying birds.

Three students were put in a small, uncomfortable cage to mimic egg-laying hens being raised in tiny battery cages, as they called on the Council to set explicit regulations and policies for gradually phasing out what critics call an inhumane practice, reports the Taipei Times.

“Free the egg-laying hens” and “They are living creatures, not egg-producing machines,” the students shouted, while holding pictures of hens raised by four different methods – in battery cages, in enriched cages, in barns and free-range – to show the difference in the quality of their living environments.

Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan director, Chen Yu-min, said the Council set minimum standards for three more humane egg production methods in January but they are still too passive and ineffective.

The EU totally banned raising hens in battery cages in 2012, but in Taiwan, there are only 18 egg farms among a total of 1,716 – or about one per cent – that apply the more hen-friendly methods, she added.

“Happy hens produce good-quality eggs,” Mr Chen said, adding that hens kept in battery cages cannot move or stretch their wings, sometimes have their beaks trimmed to prevent them from pecking others and are often fed several types of antibiotics to fight diseases, because hens kept in such an unnatural environment have weaker immune systems.

Mr Chen said that the Council should set explicit policies on phasing out inhumane methods, such as banning the establishment of new battery-cage egg farms, only providing subsidies to egg farms that apply more humane hen-raising methods, and setting up annual goals for achieving a total ban on battery cages.

In response, the Council’s Animal Husbandry Department deputy director, Chu Ching-cheng, said: “About 6.8 billion eggs are produced by about 1,700 egg farms in Taiwan every year, representing a market value of more than NT$19 billion [US$628.9 million], so it has actually formed an industrial chain and any changes in policy will affect many people.”

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