Welfare campaigners renew call to ban caged hens

Animal welfare body, Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), is stepping up its campaign to ban enriched colony systems of egg production, describing them as “fundamentally flawed”.

The organisation has released new footage, filmed on 10 colony units in France, Italy, Czech Republic and Cyprus, in which it claims the birds are still unable to perform their natural behaviours.

Campaigns director Dil Peeling added that the enrichments were “little more than window dressing”, with barely enough space for birds to stretch their wings. Feather pecking was widespread and birds had their beaks severely trimmed.

See also: Causes of vent pecking and cannibalism in layers

“On some farms the perches, which are meant to simulate a tree branch for roosting, were barely a few centimetres off the ground. In other cases, if a hen was on a perch, she could not stand upright because the roof of the cage was so low.”

As well as perches, the organisation has criticised the legislation in relation to scratch areas. “The Directive does not set a minimum area per hen, so the areas of litter provided are quite minimal, or the material used is unsuitable for key behaviours such as dust bathing.”

It also claims some farmers circumvent the rule banning wire mesh floors in nest boxes by simply applying a plastic coating to wire.

CIWF has therefore launched a campaign, encouraging supporters to fill out an online form, which will trigger an automatic letter to their agriculture minister calling for enriched cages to be banned.

“The industry heralds these [enriched] cages as making vast improvements on the banned barren battery cages,” said Mr Peeling. “But it is clear that, for the hen, a cage is still a cage.”

A spokesman for the British Egg Information Service said he was not able to comment on the conditions of cages in other countries.  “In the UK, however, the legislation has been implemented in full. We are operating enriched colony cages and we believe it has made a big difference to bird welfare.”