UK Government Rejects 2016 Beak Trimming Ban

UK - Farming minister George Eustice has said that a proposed ban on beak trimming will not be introduced in the UK from January 2016.
calendar icon 26 November 2015
clock icon 3 minute read

Mr Eustice was answering a written question on the subject from James Cartlidge, MP for South Suffolk, in parliament.

Current regulations on beak trimming in the UK say that infra-red technology can be used on day-old chicks, but hot blades cannot be used for beak trimming.

The government established the Beak Trimming Action Group (BTAG) to look at the issue, with representatives from different stakeholders, including industry, government, welfare groups and vets.

The Group recently submitted a review of evidence for the possible ban on beak trimming in 2016, and Mr Eustice said he had accepted all the Group's recommendations.

"The Group advised that the risks of introducing a ban on infra-red beak trimming are too great," Mr Eustice said.

"It could result in outbreaks of severe feather pecking and having to employ emergency beak trimming using the hot blade method, which is a far worse outcome from an animal welfare perspective."

The Group used study tours, literature reviews, domestic research, the success or otherwise of management interventions and other factors such as genetic or nutritional influences to inform their decision.

It found that although other countries such as Austria and Sweden have implemented bans on beak trimming, the UK's larger flocks and different breeds mean lessons learned from these countries are not easily transferred over.

BTAG concluded that an imminent ban on beak trimming could result in significant welfare problems through outbreaks of feather pecking and cannibalism.

However the Group said that halting the proposed ban should just be an "interim step", and that in future, it will be possible to avoid widespread beak trimming.

"The BTAG report also identified improved management techniques that could reduce feather pecking," Mr Eustice said.

"The Government expects to see these techniques introduced across the laying hen sector."

NFU chief poultry adviser Gary Ford said: “The NFU has always said that January 2016 would have been too early to introduce a ban on beak trimming. We believe that a continuation is in the best welfare interests of laying hens so we are pleased that the Minister has listened to ours and the industry’s concerns.

“The NFU supports and is actively involved in ongoing industry work to better understand what the trigger points are that cause injurious feather pecking.

“The industry will continue its work with welfare groups, such as RSPCA and CiWF, and Defra in exploring ways in which we can work towards an industry that does not need to rely on beak trimming, but where bird welfare is not compromised.”

Further Reading

You can view the full report from the Beak Trimming Action Group by clicking here.

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