LONDON, 20th May 2022
The Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation (CAWF) has today published a report on the practice of beak trimming in the UK.
The report, ‘The Case for Ending Beak Trimming’, outlines what beak trimming entails and how it is currently justified, the economic implications of its use, and ultimately why we must move away from this painful practice. Beak trimming is widely employed across the egg industry; this amounts to tens of millions of hens in the UK who suffer this practice. Specifically, the report highlights:
- The serious welfare issues associated with beak trimming. Evidence shows chicks experience pain and stress when their beaks are mutilated. The tip of the beak contains many sensory receptors and is used to perform a wide range of behaviours such as grabbing food, building nests, and interacting with peers.
- The need to address the underlying issues which cause feather pecking. Beak trimming is a direct result of the intensification of poultry production and would not be necessary under less intense systems of production which allow hens sufficient space to move about.
- Possible alternatives to beak trimming. There are manycontrollable factors which have an impact on levels of feather pecking, which include diet, density of stock, and access to outdoor space where hens can forage.
- The long delay in enacting legislation to ban the practice. 25 years ago (1997) the Farm Animal Welfare Committee called the practice “a major insult”, and it has been over a decade since the Government first stated the practice of beak trimming should be banned (in 2010).
- The other countries which have successfully imposed legal bans. Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Switzerland, have all passed legislation to end beak trimming in the egg industry.
This report forms part of the wider Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation campaign on improving welfare conditions for laying hens. CAWF is a member of the Beatrice’s Bill coalition alongside The Humane League and RSPCA, which seeks to end cages for laying hens in the UK. Beatrice’s Bill (named after Beatrice, a rescue hen) refers to CAWF Patron Henry Smith MP’s Private Members Bill to end cages for laying hens, which launched in September 2021.
More information on the Beatrice’s Bill campaign can be found here.
Lorraine Platt, Co-Founder of Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, commented: “Banning the practice of beak trimming is long overdue, but it isn’t something we can tackle in isolation. Hens need adequate environments in order to exercise their natural behaviours, and it is only in shifting away from intensive systems of production that we can address the heart of the issue.
“The Beatrice’s Bill coalition, which the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation is a proud member of, is urging the Government to launch a Call for Evidence without delay on ending cages for laying hens. It is these environmental changes which will have the greatest impact in preventing feather pecking and thus rendering beak trimming unnecessary.”
Henry Smith MP, Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation Patron, commented:
“This report is a difficult but important read for policymakers. Not only is beak trimming extremely painful for the chicks involved, it doesn’t actually address the reasons why feather pecking takes place, which is due to the cruel cramped conditions they’re kept in. We must confront the causes and improve the environment in which laying hens are raised, instead of mutilating them to fit our system of production.”
Tracey Crouch MP, Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation Patron, commented:
“Every year millions of chicks -just a matter of days old- have their beaks mutilated in the UK. As a country which prides itself on high farming standards, this is simply not good enough. A ban on beak trimming is long overdue, it has been over a decade since this measure was first discussed, and it must now be actioned without delay.”