Video exposes animals in Indonesian farms with conditions that would be illegal in other countries and can help spread diseases
Sinergia Animal, an international non-governmental organization (NGO), released an investigative video about controversial practices used by national egg producers. The images were obtained in 13 different farms in Indonesia and show hens living in battery cages, an intensive confinement system that may contribute to the spreading of diseases.
‘More than ever, we need to pay attention to the way animals are being farmed. There are far too many animals crammed together, and this can be a breeding ground for dangerous diseases to emerge or spread,’
says Among Prakosa, coordinator of Act For Farmed Animals, a coalition of NGOs, which Sinergia Animal and Animal Friends Jogja are a part of.
The warning from animal advocates is based on information from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), which has been stating in recent weeks that ‘intensified livestock production’—industrial farms that confine many animals together, as with the egg farms exposed in the video—increases the risk of the emergence of ‘zoonotic epidemics’—that is, epidemics originating in animals.
The organization highlights that three out of four new infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic. Many of these diseases may come from wild animals, but they can spread and contaminate farmed animals. Then, humans — such as farmworkers, butchers, sellers, and consumers who go to markets, eat animal products, or consume food contaminated by animal waste — will be infected by the farmed animals or food with which they are in direct contact.
This means that livestock serves as a bridge between wildlife diseases and human infections. It’s the case, for example, with avian influenza, which first circulated in wild birds, then infected domestic poultry, and finally passed from the poultry to humans.
Another relevant public health issue related to producing eggs in cages is the risk of salmonella contamination: a bacterial infection that mostly sickens people via the consumption of contaminated animal products, like poultry meat and eggs, and can even cause death in children and elderly people, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). A major study conducted by the European Union Food Safety Authority (EFSA) showed that battery-cage farms are significantly more likely to be contaminated with salmonella than cage-free farms are.
While carrying out their research, investigators found that some hens in the farms visited in Indonesia also had a disease called infectious coryza, and the infection was so severe that some even lost their sight.
Indonesian egg farms would be illegal in other countries
Conventional battery cages are considered so cruel and unsafe that are being phased out in over 30 different countries—including every member of the European Union, New Zealand, and Canada. In the US, seven states have also approved prohibitive legislation against these cages.
Nonetheless, around 88% of egg production in Indonesia is produced in this type of system, in which each cage can have up to 12 hens. Birds often have fractured bones and osteoporosis due to the lack of movement, and feather loss due to continuous contact with the cages' bars. “Scientists have proven that chickens are able to feel pain, stress, and fear. We cannot keep treating these animals like this,” says Prakosa.
There is a way out of cages
Now, activists are asking major food companies, such as McDonald's, to extend their cage-free egg policy to Indonesia. The company has already committed to stop using caged eggs in North and Latin America, but have not done the same in Asia. An online petition has already gathered over 17,000 signatures asking McDonald's Indonesia to adopt similar standards.
Additionally, several businesses have already announced commitments to no longer using eggs from caged hens in their supply chains. Kraft Heinz, Nestlé, Mondelez, Radisson, Hilton, Best Western, Club Med, and Wyndham are some examples of companies that are operating with this policy worldwide, including in Indonesia.
‘Alternatives already exist. Leading producers are already selling cage-free eggs in Indonesia. Besides that, many people are transitioning to a plant-based diet and stopping consuming animal products, including eggs. What we are asking with this campaign is for consumers to make more conscious choices,’ explains Prakosa.
About Act For Farmed Animals
Act For Farmed Animals is a joint campaign that is being run by the NGOs Animal Friends Jogja and Sinergia Animal to improve animal welfare in Indonesia. We believe that a better world is possible for animals if we start educating the public about how animals are treated in food-production systems.
To learn more about the campaign, visit www.actforfarmedanimals.org.
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