Bhutan Wants Happy Chickens on Happy Farms
The country that decided to measure GHN (Gross National Happiness) instead of GNP (Gross National Product) is extending that yardstick to agriculture. The whole country is going cage-free and organic.
On August 2nd Bhutan’s Minister of Agriculture and Forests officially declared the country is adopting “Battery Cage Free Poultry Farming”. Humane Society International praised the animal welfare reforms and explained:
The Minister of Agriculture and Forests, Royal Government of Bhutan, declared that any female domesticated chicken, turkey, duck, goose, or guinea fowl kept for the purpose of egg production, including pullets, shall never be continually confined in restrictive cages that prevent them from fully stretching their limbs or expressing important natural behaviors. The order also mandates that birds shall have sufficient space to be able to perch or sit quietly without repeated disturbance.
The announcement follows a June 19th statement at Rio+20 that Bhutan intended to commit to 100 percent organic agriculture. Addressing the opening session, Prime Minister Jigmi Y. Thinley cited four reasons for the decision:
- Protection of soil health and fertility, ground and surface water, and biodiversity
- Creation of new economic opportunities
- Strengthening of the independence, self-esteem and self-reliance of the nation’s farmers
- Strengthening of culture and rural communities
Next: Bumps on the Road to Sustainable Agriculture
Both moves are in line with the four pillars of Gross National Happiness: good governance, sustainable socio-economic development, cultural preservation, and environmental conservation. That does not mean the changes will be without opposition.
Many farmers in Bhutan have adopted adopted industrial practices. When the Bhutan Observer examined records of the National Soil Services Centre, it found that in 2007 farmers were applying 7.9 kg of chemical fertilizers per hectare. A year later that had climbed to 26 kg per hectare. In addition, mechanized farming and pesticides have increased yields and replaced farm workers, while urbanization has reduced available farmland. The same thing has happened in the poultry sector, where increased industrialization has led to large-scale operations where egg-laying poultry are confined.
Still, both moves make important statements about the nation’s commitment to living up to the tenets of Gross National Happiness. As Andre Leu, president of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements and Australian adviser to the Bhutanese government told National Public Radio:
All these problems are solvable, they just need a few more years of research to come up with some more effective solutions.
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