DEFRA is now preparing to shelve the forthcoming ban on beak trimming indefinitely, claims Compassion in World Farming.
The ban is due to come into force in just over a year’s time, on 1 January 2011, but back in September the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) recommended that this date should be put back.
In a letter to minister Jim Fitzpatrick in September, FAWC admitted that a ban on beak trimming would merely replace one welfare problem with another.
Now Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) maintains that DEFRA is ready to make a formal decision to delay the ban, and is calling on ministers to leave it in place. It claims the correct way to avoid feather pecking in layers is to “keep them in good conditions and select for birds that are less prone”.
Chief policy adviser Peter Stevenson said: “The ban gave producers a very generous eight-year phase-out period. Egg producers have been slow to adapt, and it is unacceptable to now say they need more time.”
Back in September, FAWC advised defra that the ban “should be deferred until it can be demonstrated reliably, under commercial conditions, that laying hens can be managed without beak trimming without a greater risk to their welfare than that caused by beak trimming itself”.
It still insisted that every effort should be made to end the routine beak trimming of layers as soon as possible. But in the interim, there would still be a need for beak trimming, with conditions.
“We recommend that infra-red beak treatment should be the only method used routinely from a set date, such as January 2011.”
FAWC lamented the lack of progress in the seven years since the ban was announced.
“More effort should have been made by the industry to prepare for the ban by the development of new strains of hens or husbandry systems, for example. In the absence of alternative control measures, the introduction of a ban on beak trimming will affect the welfare of hens considerably.
Many farms may simply fail to comply with the ban, while those that do may experience major problems with feather pecking and cannibalism.”