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Livestock or domestic animals are of great importance to the welfare of humans all over the globe. They are raised and kept for various reasons but essentially for food production and supply. The intangible benefits are companionship, income generation, some can be used as draught, carrying out farm operations such as plaughing.
About 72 billion land animals are slaughtered for food in the world each year. An estimate of about 50 billion of the land animals slaughtered are chicken. This shows and gives a clear indication that chicken meat is the most consumed globally every year.
Unfortunately, less than 1% of the farm animals are raised on pasture, with space, fresh air, sunshine and given a chance to interact with others of their kind. Looking at poultry, many of the countrys’ most popular egg brands are produced from chicken raised under worst condition. “Compassion for animals is intimately associated with goodness of character, and it may be confidently asserted that he who is cruel to animals cannot be a good man.” (Arthur Schopenhauer)
The layer hen welfare has been is one of the things that many people who keep them have not taken into consideration for a very long time. In as much as the layer hen will have freedom from hunger and thirst, being denied the freedom to express natural behaviors is of great concern. One of the most injurious ways that the layer hen’s welfare has not been achieved is through the cage rearing system.
Welfare in cage-free systems is currently highly variable, and needs to be addressed by management practices, genetic selection, further research, and appropriate design and maintenance of the housing environment. Conventional cages lack adequate space for movement do not include features to allow behavioural expression. Hens therefore experience extreme behavioural restriction, musculoskeletal weakness and an inability to experience positive affective states. Furnished cages retain the benefits of conventional cages in terms of production efficiency and hygiene, and offer some benefits of cage-free systems in terms of an increased behavioural repertoire, but do not allow full behavioural expression.
In the cages, the layer hen has restriction of natural behaviors, they are less able to perform behaviors such as dust bathing, walking and foraging. Spatial restriction has also been shown to decrease the hen’s performance of comfort behaviors (e.g., wing flapping, stretching, body shakes, tail wagging). Nesting and roosting are not options in the conventional caging systems. There are Cage-related injury where hen may become trapped between wires, or experience foot damage secondary to overgrown claws.
There is lack or little knowledge by many farmers regarding the welfare of the layer hen. Many farmers lack sensitization and education on poultry welfare and its significance to enhance productivity. This shows that there is a need to create awareness and advocacy to poultry farmers through trainings, farm visits on the need to abolish the battery cage system.
Since farmers are always in touch with these animals, some may not be on the know of the welfare of these animals, some may have little knowledge while others are on the know but are just ignoring. Adovacy through all means to save the life of these poor animals is of great importance.
“Animals suffer as much as we do. True humanity does not allow us to impose such sufferings on them. It is our duty to make the whole world recognize it.” (Albert Schweizer)