Animal rights campaigners call for good practices in poultry production.
Marondera (New Ziana) -Calls to stop harmful practices in farm animal production are growing louder with rights groups engaging government veterinary and extension officers to raise awareness among producers.
This comes as Animal Advocates International held a training workshop for 25 veterinary and agricultural extension officers in Marondera last week.
Founder and director, Yvonne Gurira urged the participants to assist in improving the welfare of chickens in particular and promote sustainable egg production systems that do not infringe on animal rights such as the battery cage system.
Battery cages are housing system used for various animal production methods, but primarily for egg-laying hens.
The space given to each bird is less than the size of A4 paper. For a hen to have a good life, it needs the freedom to move around, to stretch, flap its wings, perch and lay its eggs in a nest and it cannot do any of these things in a battery cage.
“This can be done through promoting the five freedoms of chickens and identifying harmful practices to chickens. Some of these practices violate the freedoms of animals,” said Gurira.
“These freedoms include hunger and thirst, discomfort, pain, injury or disease, expressing normal behaviour and freedom from fear and distress. Chickens must enjoy their natural behaviours such as perching, foraging, and dustbathing.”
Gurira added that the challenges lay in the legal gaps as well as lack of enforcement of existing laws.
“As a result, it is increasingly difficult to hold animal abusers accountable. The solution is to re-align these laws and increase enforcement,” she said.
Addressing the same workshop, senior legal officer in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Jonathan Chieza, said to address the challenges of improving animal welfare, there was an urgent need to update outdated laws.
He said another approach would be to raise awareness among key stakeholders such as traditional leaders, politicians, and law enforcement agents.
The training would be cascaded to all the 10 administrative provinces of Zimbabwe to raise awareness among school children as they are a critical medium of disseminating information.
It would also be extended to large-scale poultry producers and meat processors, the workshop was told,
Zimbabwe has an estimated poultry production of over 30 million birds per year.
Chicken is the most consumed protein in the country with a per capita consumption of 12 kg per person per year.