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3.7 Animal Welfare and Effect of Changes in Study Countries

Increasingly animal welfare issues have been raised by consumers in developed countries-especially in the European Union (EU). The two meat-exporting countries of the four country sample-Brazil and Thailand-appear to have noticed. Though there is legislation in Brazil to promote animals' rights, these laws are not always followed or known by producers. Federal Decree No. 24645, article 3, in Brazil forbids producers to keep animals in anti-hygienic places, places where they cannot breath, move, or rest, or that have no light or air. Producers are also forbidden to abandon sick, wounded, mutilated or extenuated animals. Producers are required to provide veterinary assistance so as to enable animals to aid animals and to make sure that the deaths are suffering-free death whether it be for consumption or not. There are also rules governing transport of animals in terms of crowding and containment.

In Thailand, larger-scale export-oriented farms appear to be trying to comply with EU standards on animal density, number of animals per worker, number of dark hours per days, and transportation conditions. Some farms have found that following these standard to be beneficial for them as both the mortality rate and Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR) improved, though there has been no rigorous study to confirm if the average cost per bird (including fixed cost) increase or decrease (Poapongsakorn et al., 2003). However, the large-scale Thai farms that mainly serve the domestic market-most of which follow the western blueprint based on capital-intensive and land-scarce production systems-might be viewed as less considerate to the animals. In layer farms, for example, animal density in an evaporative cooling house is generally higher than traditional house because of the relatively high investment cost. The higher density could make the living environment less desirable, although it is also arguably the case that adopting the cooling system would make the animals more comfortable.

However, unlike some layer farms in the US where each hen has average space that equivalent to a sheet of letter paper, a large layer farm in the Thai country study let hens wander freely within the hen-houses Many small commercial farms in our survey (of sizes 50-60 pig per farms) in Nakorn Ratchasima province also use housing practices that resemble backyard farms more than industrialized farms. In these farms, pigs are allowed to go in and out their pen at will. While many Thai exporters view the animal welfare measure requirement as protectionism, according to the Thai country study, some are rather optimistic that Thailand is in a better position to follow these guidelines than a major competitor like the US (Poapongsakorn et al., 2003).

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