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Wednesday 18.10.2017 | Name days: Rolanda, Rolands, Ronalds, Erlends
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Ahead of Easter animal rights watchdogs appall egg-(b)eaters with an unappetizing vid

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RULinas Jegelevičius for the BNN

Do you have your fridge already stocked with eggs for the Easter frolicking? How many eggs will you joyfully crack up before gorging them down?

Lithuanian animal wellbeing watchdogs from «Tušti namai», a NGO, warn not to touch the eggs: laying hens in Lithuanian hatcheries, at least in two of them, are allegedly mistreated. The proof? A short video that is stirring a buzz.

Egg hatchers keep some stuff off public’s eyes

With the Easter around the corner, the animal rights advocates have decided to smoke out the worst hen breeding practices in Lithuania’s poultry ventures, with two of them, «Vievio paukštynas» and «Zujų paukštynas», being the primary targets.

«The investigation we carried out exposes the ambiguity of the advertisements depicting happy hens on the labels. They are a lure for buyers, but the reality is horrendous –one that the egg hatchers want to keep off everyone’s eyes,» Gabija Enciūtė, a senior official at the NGO, told BNN.

She told the organization had handed in the footage exposing hens breeding malpractices to Lithuania’s State Food and Veterinary Service (SFVS) and expects it to start a probe into the findings.

«We were assured that the service’s animal wellbeing specialists will look into the matter and get back to us as soon as possible,» she told late Wednesday, April 1.

The animal rights advocate, however, stayed short of naming the source of information on the alleged animal wellbeing abuses in the farms.

«The source is credible,» she insisted though.

Only a tip of iceberg?

Enciūtė said she has not spoken directly to the executives of the poultry farms- «Vievio paukštynas» is situated ca 30 kilometres away from the Lithuanian capital Vilnius and the other one is in the Ukmerge Region, some 80 kilometres away from Vilnius.

«I don’t understand why some people are trying now to cast doubt on the authenticity of the video footage. If it comes to proving it in court, we will do it,» the animal rights advocate underscored.

The short vid, shot at dusk, exhibits an accessible-by-everyone dump site in the territory of the farms. The dump containers, uncovered, notably, are filled nearly up to the brink with the carrion of dead hens.

«But this is only the tip of iceberg of what is going on in the hatcheries,» Enciūtė noted.

She says she seeks to bring up to one’s attention the widespread misunderstanding that hens are being treated, well, humanly and according to the European standards.

«I will fidget with wooden Easter eggs»

«Many of the compatriots still conjure up image of a hen coop similar to that one from the childhood in the grandma’s farm. I wish they had a chance to follow the journey of the eggs from a poultry farm onto the supermarket shelves,» the animal rights watchdog said. «As much as 96 percent of all the eggs in our supermarkets are hatched by laying hens held in hen pens.»

She says she believes these two cases are not «some specifics cases», but rather a picture of the laying hens’ entire industry.

«Frankly, it will be my first Easter that I won’t go egg cracking. And if I do, I’ll make sure I hold wooden eggs. Also, if I feel like garnishing an egg, I’ll get a chocolate egg, for example, and work on it,» Enciūtė revealed to BNN.

But the revelation has apparently little resonated through the queues of egg buyers. Some of them, as a matter of fact, tend to sneer at the animal rights watchdogs.

«C’mon, how can they swallow an egg if they are so fussy about the hens? It could have been a happy, agile chick in other, luckier circumstances,» Mykolas Neverauskas, a resident of Vilnius, pouted.

State officials are suspicious

Jurgita Savickaitė, a spokeswoman for SFVS, told BNN that the service’s animal wellbeing specialists have started looking into the footage and it may take « a day or two» to draw any conclusions, according to her.

She said the country’s poultry farms are inspected «regularly» and all exposed shortcomings in regard to the wellbeing are brought to the attention of the poultry farm management.

Meanwhile, 15min.lt, a Lithuanian news site, quoted Egidijus Macelis, the head of SFVS’s Animal Wellness and Wellbeing Department, who, admitting reports on ostensible violations in poultry farms being not «a rarity before an Easter holiday», has come in defense of egg hatcheries.

«As a rule, they are aiming at one or another enterprise or a chain. There happen to be complaints that turn out to be absolutely unfounded. But some of them are (substantiated)» he told.

Talking about the «Tušti namai» video, he brought to attention the fact the hens footage was shot in darkness, when the battery hens were supposed to be resting.

«I do not know why the people from the animals welfare organization walked into the pen (at the time) and started shooting the video,» Macelis noted, insisting that it would be «wrong» to allege that hens in Lithuania are held in inappropriate conditions.

He agreed, however, that the industrial waste in poultry farms has to be properly utilized.

«Our records show that over 14 tons of offal has been carried to that kind of waste processor in Rietavas (a town 50 kilometers away from Klaipėda). Our findings do not support the evidence from the video that production waste is being buried there. We want the investigation to clear things and if the allegations prove to be true we will bring the strictest responsibility upon the hatcheries,»the SFVS officer emphasized.

Laying hens wellbeing defined by letter of law

Macelis also pointed also that the protection of laying hens has been embedded in the EU and Lithuanian legislature.

«In fact, Lithuania has been one of the first EU member states to have implemented the laying hens wellbeing requirements,» he said.

«From the footage it seems that the hens are held in quite good conditions- the coops are in alignment with the EU regulations. When joining the European Union, Lithuanian poultry farms had to change the cages, so that they were in order to the regulation on their height and width, also install suitable nesting areas and perches,» the veterinary specialist noted.

Legislation laying out the standards for the protection of laying hens has been in effect in the European Union since 1999. The then-EU member states concurred then that usage of the traditional chicken pens had to be banned from January 1, 2012, and replaced with more modern ones, corresponding to the EU animal well-being regulations. Thus new enclosures must even have nesting areas, and perches.

Sweden is known as the first EU country to have completed the transition. Lithuanian poultry farms had nearly completed the work before 2012.

«In fact, from many standpoints, Lithuania was among the hens wellbeing champions,» the SFVS specialist insisted.

Some of the poultry farms had to halt their operations unable to meet the new animal wellbeing requirements, according to him.

Some of the European countries, he says, still have not been up to the EU standards. Among the laggers are Italy, for example.

Another futile attempt to expose violations

And those who suspect that the SFVS officials may take sides sorting out the complaints on the animals rights abuse should be aware that a superior body, EU Food Safety Authority (FSA), does routine checks on the situation in Lithuanian poultry farms.

Macelis said the FSA inspectors have just completed a check in the afore-mentioned establishments and left satisfied with the conditions.

«I haven’t heard from them any rebukes,» he said.

In the past, the afore-mentioned NGO had aired footage from several Lithuanian fur animal farms, which purportedly exposed inhuman behaviour with the furry critters.

But Lithuanian animals wellbeing guardians have dismissed the evidence, too, arguing that the video had been handed in too late to verify the claims.

Poultry farm nabbed in wrongdoing

But this time the claims of inappropriate business practice has proved to be right.

The response to BNN by the SFVS spokeswoman late Thursday, April, said: «Reacting to information on possible improper management of offal products in poultry farm «Zujų paukštynas», the SFVS has carried out investigation throughout which was determined that in the aired footage exposed place does exist as a dug pit containing ca 100 kilo of production waste of animal origin.

While SFVS officers were investigating the circumstances of the violations, the enterprise’s authorized personnel have leveled the pit».

Since the farm did not have necessary permit for disposal of production waste through burying a EUR600 fine was imposed on «Zujų paukštynas».

The company’s director Reimondas Geležius told BNN that the poultry farm has been all 100 percent up to the EU animal wellbeing requirements.

«According to agreement, a Rietavas-based waste company collects and takes out all the waste from the farm,» he pointed out.

He did not comment on the SFVS findings, but saying the farm management «explores the situation».

Ref: 020/111.111.111.1378


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