Ministries clash over forced molting of chickens

Agriculture Ministry calls for practice of starving hens for increased egg output to continue for 4 more years.

chickens 311 (photo credit: Rebecca Siegel)
chickens 311
(photo credit: Rebecca Siegel)
Contrary to a July government ruling calling for an end to the practice of starving hens for increased egg output by January, the Agriculture Ministry has called for the ritual to continue for four more years, the Environmental Protection Ministry said Monday.
While current regulation allows for farmers to starve hens for up to two weeks in order to increase their egg productivity, the government had unequivocally determined that by January there would be a ban on this “forced molting” system, according to the Environment Ministry. In doing so, the government demanded that a team led by the Agriculture Ministry submit recommendations for the implementation of this plan.
Instead, however, the team submitted the plan for continuing the practice for four more years, which would lead to approximately 7 million more chickens suffering from the practice and many even dying from it, the Environment Ministry said.
“There is no reason that Israel should continue to be cruel to animals unnecessarily, under the protection of the government and in order to make profits,” said Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan.
While undergoing the forced molting process, the hens starve for between 10 days and two weeks and typically lose their feathers, according to the Environment Ministry. Meanwhile, in addition to enduring the starvation period, the hens also are held in complete darkness for no less than 35 days.
Environment Ministry director-general Alona Shefer-Karo has sent a letter to Agriculture Ministry director-general Yossi Yishai, charging the office with submitting flawed recommendations. Despite the fact that an Environment Ministry representative was on the recommendations team, the office said the Agriculture Ministry refused to review any Environment Ministry materials.
In response, the Agriculture Ministry stressed that the recommendations team consisted of representatives from the Agriculture Ministry, the Finance Ministry and the Environment Protection Ministry.
Although the Environment Ministry position was in the minority among team members, it was included in the resultant report, and not only the first alternative for allowing the practice four more years was printed, according to the Agriculture Ministry.
The team members came to an understanding that there needed to be a gradual implementation of the forced molting ban, and decided that an immediate transition on January 1 would be problematic for the consumer. With the cessation of the practice, the industry will need to double its egg production each year, the ministry said.
While the team members stressed that animal welfare was crucial, so too would be the stability and continuity of the basic food supply of eggs.
“The team’s proposal provides a feasible solution for the hens and the consumers, while the minority position would bring a real shortage of eggs,” the Agriculture Ministry said.
The Agriculture Ministry likewise accused the Environment Ministry of “imposing its minority opinion on all other government ministries by means of corrupt communications,” even though team discussions occurred democratically and transparently, and included the minority position in the report.
The organization Anonymous for Animal Rights stressed its dissatisfaction with the extension of the practice. By eliminating forced molting, the price of each egg would only rise by approximately 2 agorot, the organization said, quoting data an Agriculture Ministry extensive service for poultry farmers.
Meanwhile, a higher incidence of salmonella occurs among chickens who partake in the starvation practice, according to Anonymous.
“As usual, the Agriculture Ministry repeatedly proves that although it is in charge of implementing the Animal Welfare Law, it is the body that already leads for 18 years the struggle against its application,” a statement from Anonymous said.