Japanese company behind upcoming egg farm in Singapore 'aware' of PETA's allegations of animal cruelty
SINGAPORE: The Japanese company that will set up Singapore's fourth egg farm said it is "aware" of a letter by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) alleging that it keeps chickens in cruel conditions.
PETA's Asia branch had sent a letter to Singapore Food Agency (SFA) chief executive officer Lim Kok Thai on Tuesday (Sep 14) urging Singapore to "avoid supporting cruelty to animals" by halting a project that will see ISE Food Holdings (IFH) set up a S$100 million farm in Singapore.
SFA had on Sep 10 signed a memorandum of understanding with IFH to develop the farm that is expected to produce 360 million eggs every year from 2026, eventually boosting total domestic production to meet half of Singapore's demand for eggs.
But PETA senior vice president Jason Baker said in his letter to SFA that IFH keeps its chickens in "shocking and appalling conditions" at one of its farms, citing video footage from a whistleblower.
A representative from PETA told CNA that the farm in question is located in Japan.
"The footage shows hens confined to rows of stacked cages and packed so tightly together that they can barely move, much less spread their wings," he wrote in the letter seen by CNA.
"Dead chickens are left to rot alongside surviving ones, and many birds are seen covered with inflamed sores."
An IFH spokesperson told CNA on Wednesday that the company is aware of PETA's letter to SFA, saying that it will "seek to safeguard the welfare of the animals in our farms and abide with Singapore’s animal welfare regulations".
"We at ISE Foods Holdings believe that it is very important to create a good environment for animals," the spokesperson said.
"A good environment for the animals (chickens) is not just a matter of changing the shape of the cage. We believe that it is necessary to adjust the oxygen concentration, temperature, feed and other aspects of the comprehensive environment in the poultry house."
The spokesperson said IFH is also embarking on a "different approach" by introducing artificial intelligence and Internet of Things technologies related to animal welfare.
These include 24-hour remote management of chicken health and a "new approach" to support chicken mental care.
"In this project, there are also plans to introduce an aviary chicken coop, and we are considering business continuity plans that maintain a balance between animal welfare and market demand which is expected to have a significant impact on the poultry farming industry," the spokesperson added.
In response to queries from CNA, SFA said it works together with the National Parks Board (NParks) to ensure the welfare of farmed food animals in Singapore.
"All SFA animal farm licensees are also required to safeguard the welfare of the animals in their farms and abide with Singapore’s animal welfare regulations under the Animal and Birds Act, administered by NParks," the agency said.
"ISE Foods Holdings have to meet these requirements for their future egg production facilities in Singapore."
SFA did not say if it would reconsider its arrangement with IFH.
Nevertheless, SFA said it and NParks participate in the setting of animal welfare standards at international and regional levels, involving the industry and Singapore’s animal welfare civil societies.
"Industry standards and requirements in Singapore, such as the Singapore Standards for Good Animal Husbandry Practice for layer poultry farming are also being developed in consultation with stakeholders," the agency added.
"SFA will continue to work with all partners to grow the capabilities and capacity of Singapore’s agri-food industry, such as promoting locally-produced food, including plant-based proteins, to cater to the diversity of preferences of our people."
According to a press release on the MOU signing, IFH is the top egg producer in Japan and one of the top six largest egg producers in the world, with 15 farms in Japan as well as six farms in Asia and the US.
PETA first published its allegations against ISE on May 13, when it called on the Tokyo Olympics organising committee to only sell vegan egg substitutes at the event. ISE was certified to sell its eggs at Games.
In Tuesday's press release opposing the upcoming egg farm in Singapore, PETA said many chickens seen in the whistleblower footage were missing feathers, adding that this was a result of stress-induced self-mutilation or fighting for space.
"The company was caught on camera clearly abusing chickens," Mr Baker wrote. "We ask that after learning of these findings, Singapore Food Agency refuse to allow ISE to open an egg farm in the country."