Welfare Group Supports MP over Beak Trimming Ban

UK - Government plans to remove the ban on routine beak trimming of laying hens are under the spotlight this week after a surprise intervention in the House of Commons by Labour MP, John McDonnell.
calendar icon 15 December 2010
clock icon 4 minute read

Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) reports that the ban on routine beak-trimming was due to come into force on 1 January 2011. However, because egg producers have failed to take appropriate measures to adhere to the ban by this time-line, Defra Minister, Jim Paice MP has decided to remove the ban, although he has stressed that the situation should be 'reviewed' in 2015 with a view to the ban coming into force in 2016. This date, however, has not been written into the legislation – it is simply an expression of intent.

CIWF echoes MP John McDonnell's concerns that unless the new date is included in the legislation, this painful practice could well continue beyond the next deadline as well.

Supported by fellow Labour MPs, Sheila Gilmore and Mary Glindon, Mr McDonnell challenged the Government's proposed legislation during the delegated legislation committee's meeting on 7 December 2010, for failing to set a firm new commencement date for the ban on beak-trimming.

Although, Mr McDonnell was unable to prevent the motion being approved by the committee (the vote in favour was ten to three), when the motion was subsequently announced to the House of Commons, Mr McDonnell shouted out: "No!", forcing the Government to take the unusual step of holding a deferred division for the motion. This full vote of the House of Commons is due to take place today (15 December 2010)

A six-year delay in introducing the ban will mean around 120 million chicks will have their beaks painfully mutilated while potentially hundreds of millions more will undergo this procedure if no date is written into the legislation. CIWF believes that a new commencement date must be included in the regulations that repeal the 2011 ban.

At issue is a Regulation enacted in 2002 banning the beak trimming of laying hens in England, with effect from 1 January 2011. Despite an eight-year phase in period, the Government, under pressure from industry bodies, has taken the view that farmers are not yet ready to prevent feather pecking and cannibalism by any other method than beak trimming, and consequently introduced a statutory instrument to overturn the ban.

During the delegated legislation committee meeting, John McDonnell MP, said: "What worries me is that instead of setting a tight time scale for the industry to introduce measures to enable it to comply, the Government are suggesting that the compliance timetable be put back to 2016. I am used to legislative ideas being pushed into the long grass, but here they are being pushed back into the near forest. There is no prospect that a regulation that is to be reviewed in 2015, with the possibility of legislation taking effect in 2016, will send a message to the industry that the Government are in any way serious about eradicating beak trimming."

Peter Stevenson, Compassion in World Farming's Chief Policy Adviser, commented: "We are delighted that John McDonnell MP has insisted that the beak trimming ban should be voted on by all MPs. We urge MPs to reject the Government's legislation, which removes the ban on beak trimming without setting any new commencement date for it. If the ban is going to be postponed, it's vital that a new legally binding date is set for it to come into force. Around 20 million chicks are beak-trimmed every year in the UK. This painful mutilation must be brought to an end as soon as possible."

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