Report calls for pan-European phasing out of hen batteries
The UK should phase out battery hen farming but only if Europe agrees to do the same, says a report by the Farm Animal Welfare Council. The council argues that battery cages should be phased out but not until problems encountered in other forms of rearing are sorted out.It is proposing that the minimum area provided for each egg-laying bird should be expanded to 600 sq cm – the same size as a sheet of A4 paper – from the current minimum of 450 sq cm. All new battery units would need to comply immediately, and existing ones within five years. But the FAWC makes this a condition only on the basis that European farmers comply with the same standard.
Some 32 million hens in Britain are kept in battery cages, laying 85% of the 9.6 billion eggs produced annually. The FAWC says battery cages arguably cause hens frustration and suffering. But they are much better for controlling disease, temperature, food and water supply, as well as controlling aggressive behaviour between birds. Sir Colin Spedding, who chairs the council, said more research was needed into the possibility of producing more docile birds by changing diet or by breeding out aggression.