Scotland Proposes Historic Ban: No More Caging Laying Hens in the UK

The Scottish government has taken a significant step towards enhancing the welfare of animals by initiating a consultation on the prohibition of cage usage for hens in egg production. Agriculture minister Jim Fairlie emphasized that Scotland’s potential adoption of such a measure would position it as a pioneer in animal welfare improvement.

The UK prohibited the use of battery cages for birds back in 2012. However, over 1.1 million chickens in Scotland still endure confinement in “enriched cages,” which offer marginally more space for nesting, roosting, and scratching compared to conventional battery cages. A 2020 survey revealed that an overwhelming majority of UK citizens (88%) consider cage utilization in farming to be inherently cruel, with more than three-quarters (77%) endorsing a complete ban.

The Scottish government proposes a phased approach towards eliminating cage usage, with a preference for ceasing the installation of new cages by 2033, followed by a complete ban on housing birds in enriched cages by 2034. Nevertheless, opinions are also sought on the possibility of banning enriched cages as early as 2030.

Additionally, an alternative non-regulatory pathway is proposed, encouraging retailers and caterers to commit to stop selling and using eggs from birds kept in enriched cages by 2034.

Minister Fairlie highlighted that recent government agendas have prioritized improving laying hen welfare to align with public sentiment and ethical shopping preferences.

Furthermore, he noted that the European Union has proposed legislation to prohibit cage usage for all farmed livestock, with Luxembourg and Austria already implementing bans and other nations phasing them out. The Scottish government intends to solicit evidence concerning cage usage in the gamebird, quail egg, and meat sectors in the near future.

Mark Borthwick, policy manager at World Animal Protection, lauded Scotland’s move towards consultation on banning cages for laying hens, noting that several other countries are already taking decisive action. Borthwick emphasized the necessity of ending cage usage, which severely restricts animals’ natural behaviors and causes considerable suffering.

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