Animals in Agriculture in Thailand
Thailand is a country in Southeast Asia with a rapidly developing industry of agriculture. It also shares maritime borders with Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand to the southeast, and Indonesia and India (Andaman and Nicobar Islands) on the Andaman Sea to the southwest, so both agriculture and aquaculture are leading businesses in the country. Agriculture in Thailand is highly competitive, diversified, and specialized and its exports are very successful internationally. Agricultural production as a whole comprises approximately 9-10.5% of Thai GDP. The agricultural industry also supplies about 40% with work.
In Thailand, many farmed animals are kept and raised for commercial purposes. According to the recent data assessed in February 2021, the numbers of farmed animals are the following:
314.56 million broiler chickens;
112.66 million indigenous chickens;
58.75 million egg-laying chickens;
16.83 million egg-laying ducks;
13.22 million pigs;
9.16 million broiler ducks;
7.59 million cows;
1.52 million buffalo;
1.27 million goats;
0.81 million cows for dairy purposes;
0.11 million sheep.
Dairy production is developed in the country. Thailand has a raw milk production capacity of about 2800 tons a day, or just over one million tonnes per year, according to the data in 2015. 40% of production goes to a school milk program and the rest to the commercial dairy sector. According to the Agriculture Ministry, Thailand is the largest producer and exporter of dairy products in ASEAN.
Besides the horrific numbers of kept animals in Thailand for commercial purposes, to supply the local population, and for export with weak legal regulations, there is another well-known practice being conducted in Thailand, which is insect ranching. Edible insects, whole or in chili paste and as ingredients in fortified products, are commonly consumed in Thailand. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, there are approximately 20 000 cricket farms in 53 of Thailand's provinces (out of 76 provinces).
In 2018, cricket powder had a price of around THB 800 - 1500 (USD 23.72 - 44.5) per 1 kg (2.2 lbs), which is about three to five times more expensive than local beef. The market remains minuscule: The global market for beef tops US$2 trillion (66.6 trillion baht), while the market for edible insects is projected to reach only US$250 million in 2018.
In Thailand, there is the main legal source that applies to animals, which is the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Provision of Animal Welfare Act. The national Criminal Code also covers the anti-cruelty provisions towards animals in its Sections 381 and 382. Specifically, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Provision of Animal Welfare Act of Thailand provides that the Act applies to farmed animals covering animals kept as food. However, the Act does not contain any provisions regarding husbandry, rearing, transportation, or humane slaughter of these animals. The animal in the Act is defined as an animal which, generally, is a domestic animal, working animal, an animal used for transportation, companion animal, an animal used as food, an animal used for entertainment, or animal used for any other purpose, whether owned or unowned and shall include an animal which lives in its natural habitat as prescribed by the Minister.” Cruelty to animals is prohibited under the Act, whereas cruelty is “an act or a failure to act which causes an animal to suffer, physically or mentally, or causes an animal to suffer from pain, illness, infirm, or may cause death to such animal, and shall include use of a disabled, ill, old, or pregnant animal for any advantages, use of animal for sexual abuse, use of an animal to overwork or to perform an inappropriate work because such animal is ill, old, or underage.”
Chapter V contains the provisions on the prevention of animal cruelty, and it provides that no one is allowed to perform any act that is considered an act of cruelty without justification. However, Section 21 lists the exceptions for cruel acts, which are the following:
(1) killing an animal for food, this shall apply only to animals used as food;
(2) killing an animal under the law on animal killing control and meat vending;
(3) killing an animal to control animal contagious diseases under the law on animal contagious diseases;
(4) killing an animal in the case where a veterinarian considers an animal ill, disabled, or injured and cannot be treated or restored to survive without insufferable pain;
(5) killing an animal in accordance with a religious ritual or belief;
(6) killing animals in the case where there is a necessity to prevent danger to life or body of human or other animals or to prevent damage to property;
(7) any act to the body of an animal that is deemed a veterinary practice by a veterinarian by profession or a person who is exempt from registering, and being granted a veterinary license from the veterinary council as per the law on veterinary profession;
(8) cutting an ear, the tail, fur, horn, or tusk with reasonable justification and is harmless to an animal or the life of an animal;
(9) local traditional animal fight;
(10) any other act which is specifically permitted by the law;
(11)any other act which is prescribed by the Minister by Notification with the approval of the committee.”
From these provisions, it can be concluded that not only practices that are done on farmed animals fall outside the scope of the Act, but also customary husbandry practices are not recognized as cruel practices, despite most of these practices being done without painkillers.
Another legal source that applies to farmed animals is the Animal Epidemics Act, but it focuses more on the health of farmed animals and provides the procedures upon finding out a diseased animal. Animals covered in the Act include an elephant, a horse, a cow, a buffalo, a donkey, a mule, a goat, a sheep, a deer, a pig, a wild boar, a dog, a cat, a rabbit, a monkey, a gibbon.
There are Thai Agricultural Standards with a Code of Practice for Control of the Use of Veterinary Drugs, which establishes good practices for the use of veterinary drugs for food-producing animals for the purposes to avoid the excess of maximum residue limits of veterinary drugs in animals and animal products for human consumption.
“Under powers in Article 32 of the State Administration Act B.E. 2534 of 1991, in 2011 the Department of Livestock Development issued regulations on the protection of poultry on farms, during transport and at slaughter (B.E. 2554 (2011)), replacing previous regulations from 1999. These include requirements such as for poultry to be free to move and to be fed according to physiological needs, for sufficient space and ventilation and avoiding pain and distress during transport, and for electrical water-bath stunning before slaughter.
The Government has also produced non-binding standards on good agricultural practices for broiler farms (TAS 6901-2009), which include more specific welfare provisions such as space and lighting requirements and the need to express normal behavior.”
There are also the Good Practices for Animal Welfare: Dairy Cattle Production Systems issued locally, which is part of the Thai Agricultural Standard. Such practices focus on “animal welfare by setting standards and indicators for farmers to notice and follow” and “cover environmental management, mandates to avoid painful procedures, early weaning, breeding, stock density, as well as slaughtering.”