Welfare Group Hits Out at Cage Systems

An animal welfare organisation has countered arguments that enriched cages can provide good welfare condition for laying hens.
calendar icon 24 December 2008
clock icon 3 minute read

In a letter to ThePoultrySite, in response to an article Layers Take to Enriched Colonies, Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) argues that hens cannot properly express their natural behaviour in enriched cages.

CIWF Chief Policy Advisor, Peter Stevenson, says, "Compassion in World Farming believes that enriched cages do not have the potential to provide good hen welfare. The Five Freedoms are certainly not satisfied in enriched cages, as hens cannot properly express their natural behaviour.

"Scientific evidence shows that enriched cages do not have the potential to meet many of the welfare requirements of hens, notably:

  • enriched cages provide inadequate facilities for dust-bathing and foraging. The 2005 report by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded that in enriched cages "some high priority behaviours (e.g. foraging, dustbathing) cannot be performed or are limited…"
  • exercise is seriously restricted, especially in a vertical direction
  • The EFSA report stressed that in enriched cages "the behavioural repertoire is still restricted compared with birds in non-cage systems"
  • the lack of a high perch so that birds feel secure at night is a major drawback.

"In Compassion in World Farming's view, the small space provided in enriched cages and the lack of a complex and interesting environment are indicative of a system that cannot fulfil the birds' welfare needs. Our overall conclusion is that the space and facilities provided in enriched cages are so inadequate that the system deprives hens of the ability to meaningfully fulfil many natural behaviours, leading to frustration and suffering.

"Furthermore, in your article Mr Trofer claims the industry is "being held up in our investment decisions as we await the 2005 EU report into the Welfare of Laying Hens Directive". This was published in January 2008 and came down firmly against any postponement of the EU ban on battery cages.

"We believe that the real way forward for laying hen welfare is to move to systems that genuinely offer the potential for higher welfare such as free range, organic and barn systems. Consumers confirmed their interest in buying higher welfare eggs and major retailers and food companies have switched to free-range eggs to meet this demand. Our Good Egg Awards winners have freed so far 15 million hens with their cage-free policies."

Further Reading

- You can view the article Layers Take to Enriched Cages on ThePoultrySite by clicking here.
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