Barren battery cages were banned throughout Europe from January 1st 2012, but ‘enriched’ battery cages are still legally permitted. Enriched cages now have to provide 600cm squared usable space per bird, less than the size of an A4 piece of paper each, and limited facilities for perching, nesting and scratching. They only provide more a small amount of extra space per bird (than compared to battery cages).
The UK has more uncaged hens than some European countries, but millions of hens are reared in cages with little room to move and deprived of their natural behaviors. Their nest area consists of a plastic sheet hanging down from the top of the cage to provide a more secluded area for egg laying.
Hens often lose a large proportion of their feathers due to damage from the sides of the cage and pecking from other hens. To prevent feather pecking, chicks often have part of their beaks cut off.
Luxembourg has banned the use of enriched cages for laying hens and Austria and Germany are phasing out enriched cages.
Buying free-range is the simplest thing you can do to help the hens that lay eggs.
If you eat meat, the simplest thing you can do to help is to buy free-range chicken and poultry, free-range pork (or make sure it’s outdoor bred & reared) and grass-fed beef and lamb.
Want to take action? Write to your local MP!
In September 2021 our Patron Henry Smith MP launched his Private Member’s Bill ‘Beatrice’s Bill’ which would end cages for laying hens across the UK. In support of the Bill, we formed a ‘Beatrice’s Bill coalition’ with charities the RSPCA and Humane League UK.
In March 2022 we held a Beatrice’s Bill parliamentary reception, which attracted a huge number of Conservative MPs including Matt Vickers MP, Selaine Saxby MP and Sir Roger Gale MP. Celebrity guests included Lucy Watson and Kirsty Gallacher, TV veterinarian Marc Abraham and actor Peter Egan, as well as food industry representatives from Waitrose and Greggs.
Guests heard from then-Secretary of State for Defra George Eustice MP and Shadow Defra Minister Daniel Zeichner MP. In his speech, George Eustice committed to hold a Consultation on ending cages for laying hens by the end of 2022. However, in 2023 Defra has stated that it does not “consider the time is right” to launch such a Consultation.