Atul Chaturvedi, Secretary, Ministry of fisheries, animal husbandry & dairying, in his letter to chief secretaries of all states and Union Territories (UTs) reminded them of the government’s decision of declaring poultry under “essential commodities” during the first Covid wave.
Chaturvedi in his note stated that the poultry sector was providing livelihood not only to the poultry farmers but to soya and maize farmers as well.
The animal welfare groups, on the other hand, want the Centre to “immediately withdraw” its letter to states/UTs. The groups insisted on not letting the guard down at a perilous time, when the move could potentially increase the risk of COVID transmission.
Their concern is based on the rise of antimicrobial resistance, along with the emergence of new, highly pathogenic viral strains that have been linked to live animal markets, including meat production systems and wildlife trade.
The groups Mercy for Animals India Foundation (MFAF India), People for Animals (PFA), Humane Society International/ India (HSI/India), and Ahimsa Trust- are basically against current practices that poultry markets follow without adherin to safety and hygiene standards.
The groups highlighted that a vast majority of shops where domestic fowls are slaughtered and sold for meat do not adhere to the Food Safety and Standards Act 2006 and its regulations. Moreover, they said, the state governments have been inefficient in regulating them, resulting in easy pathogenic transmission channels, and further compromising public health.
They mentioned a scientific assessment released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), where it says that the intensification of animal agriculture and an increasing demand for animal protein were the major driving factors for zoonotic disease emergence.
Ashwin Bhadri, CEO of Equinox Labs, says, “With the improper handling of chicken; butchers, their families and even the customers are at risk. The fact that safety and hygiene protocols at these poultry shops are being overlooked in a time like this is appalling. We must make sure that doesn’t happen if the shops are to be opened. In order to curb the risk of this pandemic, we need serious changes to ameliorate the current animal husbandry standards.”