No Animal Left Behind: Why no animal should be prevented from showing natural behaviours
When, for instance, laying hens are kept in small cages without the chance to move around or perform natural behaviours like dust bathing, they get incredibly frustrated. As a result, laying hens will often obsessively peck at their own and their cage mates’ feathers. This behaviour strips them of feathers, and it can quickly turn into cannibalistic pecking as they begin to peck at the skin underneath. Farmers try to prevent hens from doing this by trimming their beaks when they are chicks. This is not a solution, and it just causes the hens a lifetime of pain and suffering as their beaks are highly sensitive and important tools. Laying hens should be given the space to explore, to perform natural behaviours like perching and dustbathing. Hens in good free-range systems do not need to have their beaks trimmed, as they can move around freely, and engage in the behaviours they want.
Broiler chickens, often suffering from disproportionate bodies from growing so fast, have so little space to move that the opportunity for dustbathing, playing with other broilers or simply just spreading their wings and running around is completely removed from them.
Also, farmed fish need to be given enough space to swim freely and environmental enrichment that allows them to explore, shelter, learn and play. Overcrowding and bad management quickly leads to poor water quality, and territorial instincts lead to aggression in several aquaculture species. Fish should be kept at appropriate numbers, feed should be provided in places and at times appropriate to the species, and the environment should be complex to allow fish to perform their natural behaviours.
2021 brings a once in a lifetime opportunity. We have until September to persuade the European Commission to undertake a complete review of ALL legislation that affects farmed animals in Europe. Farmed animal welfare laws must do more than protect every animal from neglect and cruelty, and minimise their suffering; they should actively promote a positive state of health and wellbeing.