hen close up showing intact beak© Jonathan Page

Defra is to receive the long-awaited report and recommendations into beak trimming in poultry later this week.

Stephen Lister, chair of the Beak Trimming Action Group (Btag), confirmed there had been agreement from all members to send the report with recommendations to the minister following a meeting in London on Tuesday (10 November).

Mr Lister remained tight-lipped on the content but said: “I can confirm that the review document was signed off by all parties and agreed.

See also: EU-wide beak trimming ban for hens on the agenda

“We have made several recommendations to the minister and are not expecting it (the report) to come back to Btag. It will go to the minister, hopefully this week. I know he has been asking officials for it and that he is keen to make a decision fairly soon.”

This was confirmed by Defra. A spokesman told Poultry World: “We hope to respond by the end of the year.”

Surprise

But Peter Stevenson, Compassion in World Farming chief policy advisor and Btag member, said he was “surprised” with Mr Lister’s comments. Although unable to attend this week’s meeting, his chief executive Philip Lymbery had spent an hour arguing the case for legislation banning beak trimming before having to leave the meeting.

Mr Stevenson said CIWF wanted to see a Statutory Instrument published saying a ban should be introduced in 2016, with the coming into force date decided by the secretary of state.

Such a measure recognised that the industry was not ready for an immediate ban, even though it had first been warned of legislation back in 2002.

“We are not trying to play hard, but industry does not want legislation underpinning this and, 13 years on, is still not at a point to do what it was asked to do in 2002,” he said.

Pilots

Speaking at the Egg and Poultry Industry Conference in Wales last week, farming minister George Eustice said it was important that lessons learned from the 20 pilots – set up as part of the Bristol University study – were not lost.

Mr Eustice told the conference that he did not want to see a situation arise where emergency hot blading of birds was needed (as had happened in one of the 20 pilots, which experienced a breakdown).

Andrew Joret, British Egg Industry Council chairman, said at the conference he firmly believed the industry was not ready for a ban from January 2016, adding it would be disastrous for animal welfare.

Beak trimming of laying hens was originally due to be banned on 1 January 2011. However, the Farm Animal Welfare Council called for the ban to be deferred until it could be demonstrated that laying hens could be managed without beak trimming, without a greater risk to their welfare than that caused by trimming itself.

Infrared beak trimming is far less intrusive than hot blading, which is still carried out in some countries.

The practice costs the egg sector about 3.5p/bird, but is seen by producers as important to protect birds against aggressive feather pecking outbreaks.