The international NGO Compassion in World Farming, has written to the agriculture minister about terminating the use of all battery-type cages for hens, it said.
The NGO said it had just finished a survey in France, Italy the Czech Republic and Cyprus and that even though a ban on conventional battery cages came into force in the EU in 2012 the name had merely been changed to ‘enriched cages’ and nothing else had changed for the hens. It has released a video on You Tube.
“Almost 60% of the 500 million hens in Europe spend their short lives in so-called ‘enriched’ cages which still do not allow them to express natural behaviour and barely able to stretch their wings,” the NGO said.
Recently, it said members had visited four European countries to breeding conditions. The videos from sites in Cyprus, France, Italy and the Czech Republic show that millions of hens, are still living in poor conditions in cages in units where productivity determines everything, it said.
In one of the units more than 7,000 hens were in three-level cages. Most had lost their feathers due to pecking at each other and they “were literally stuck together”, standing on wire mesh, rather than solid flooring.
“Others were too sick to stand on their feet,” the NGO said. “In other cases, the birds could not stand upright because the roof of the cage was too low.”
In a unit in Cyprus, the research team found that thousands of chickens were infected with mites and had not been treated because they were destined for slaughter.
The research team found units of all kinds in the four countries, large and small, old and modern, clean and dirty. “The industry considers these cages as a huge improvement over the restricted conventional battery cages,” the NGO said. “But these cages have little by way of ‘enrichment’ It is clear that the cages remain cages and the differences are negligible”.
The group wants the cage ban extended to cover all types of battery farming, and wants to see a transition to barn and free-range systems.