Forced molting through starvation is one of the most unacceptable practices in modern animal agriculture. It involves depriving birds of food for up to two weeks — and water for up to three days — to manipulate the laying cycle to stimulate egg-laying in hens whose strength is already depleted. Half a decade ago, it was standard practice in the American egg industry in order to extend length of the lay for the hens. Thanks to pressure from HSUS and other animal welfare groups, the U.S. egg industry made a change and ceased starvation molting as a common practice within its ranks.
Animal advocates in India, including Humane Society International and the partner groups of the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations (FIAPO), scored a major success on Wednesday, when the Animal Welfare Board of India issued an order directing owners of egg production facilities in India, as well as companies that contract with egg producers, to immediately discontinue forced molting starvation regimes.
The order of March 9 flowed directly from our efforts to press the issue publicly, and at FIAPO’s January India for Animals conference in Chennai. With key members of the board present, our representatives argued that India’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960 prohibits people from depriving animals in their care of food or water.
The Animal Welfare Board agreed, and the announcement of its decision has the potential to improve the lives of about 200 million egg-laying hens in India, where starvation-based forced molting is standard practice. India is consistently one of the top five egg producers in the world, and as in most countries, the animal agribusiness industry there has operated with relative disregard for and impunity to basic animal welfare laws.
Considering that there are an estimated 6.3 billion laying hens worldwide, a large percentage of whom must endure starvation during the practice of forced molting, this is a major advance.
AWBI has directed local animal welfare organizations to work alongside law enforcement to ensure that the starvation of hens through forced molting is discontinued. It also requested the cooperation of state and union territory governments in enforcing this order.