So-called 'enriched cages' were introduced as an alternative to battery or barren cages.
But they do not represent a kinder solution to conventional cages for more than 210 million laying hens in the EU.
When the EU adopted its ban on battery cages for laying hens, driven by consumer demand and evolving societal expectations, the egg industry replaced ‘conventional’ cages with another type of cage, the so-called ‘enriched’ cage. The industry’s claim was that cages are necessary to protect hens from predators, elements and disease; however, the most important driver for keeping hens caged is to optimise space and profits.
Enriched cages provide a nest, perches and some form of scratching substrate. However, these cages still severely limit the hens’ ability to carry out natural behaviours for which they are strongly motivated, such as dust-bathing, foraging, proper nesting, and resting undisturbed.
Any cage system also implies greater numbers of animals being kept in close confinement, leading to increased risk of disease, so high quantities of antibiotics and other drugs are administered to the animals.
Good practices in perch and nest box design can have very positive effects on laying hen health and welfare.
Evidence has shown that hens greatly benefit from access to well-managed outdoor runs or covered verandas and that enrichments that stimulate natural behaviours can help avoid mutilations.
Another issue that requires urgent solutions is the fate of day-old male chicks.
For the egg industry, male chicks do not have any value as they cannot lay eggs, so they are routinely culled at one day old either by gassing or maceration.
THERE ARE MORE THAN
LAYING HENS IN THE EU
EGGS FROM CAGED SYSTEMS STILL MAKE UP
OF EU PRODUCTION
IN A UK SURVEY,
OF RESPONDENTS THOUGHT HENS IN FREE-RANGE SYSTEMS ARE 'HAPPIER'
We would like to see the EC commit to revising the Laying Hen Directive to enact a ban of any kind of cages for laying hens and parent birds in favour of alternative systems (barn, free-range and organic) to ensure more humane egg production.
With our members, we have developed a set of science-based asks for higher welfare barn egg production called the ‘Eurogroup for Animals’ hens asks’. We want to position the animal advocacy movement as a reference for the industry and policymakers in driving a shift towards cage-free systems that have animal welfare at their core.
As a means to end the culling of day-old male chicks, Eurogroup for Animals is monitoring and supporting the implementation of egg-sexing techniques.
We will also lobby the European Union to prevent the access of caged eggs into the EU market via trade agreements.