Food industry giants including Nestlé, Kraft-Heinz, Nando’s and Greggs have endorsed Beatrice’s Bill, which seeks to end cages for egg-laying hens.
Their intervention comes in the form of a letter and marks the first time UK corporations have spoken out about the persisting use of cages in egg production.
Jojo de Noronha, president of Kraft-Heinz Northern Europe, said “We are proud to have committed to ending the use of cages for laying hens in our supply chain. It’s now time for policy makers to follow suit so that all laying hens are spared this suffering. We are showing that the transition is possible and now it’s up to the government to take the reins.”
Similarly, Nestlé, the largest food and drink company in the world, said: “Farm animals deserve decent welfare standards. Nestlé supports a phasing out of caged systems for all egg laying hens, building on industry efforts to date.”
Beatrice’s Bill is at the heart of a campaign against enriched battery cages headed by The Humane League and the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation. It takes its name from Beatrice, a hen rescued from the cruelty of caged farming.
The bill passed its first reading in the House of Commons on September 22. It was sponsored by Henry Smith MP and received endorsement from Caroline Lucas MP amongst others.
A petition in support of the legislation has reached more than 85,000 signatures.
All major UK food companies have committed to making their supply chains cage-free by 2025, which puts the government one step behind business.
Switzerland, Luxembourg and Austria have already banned caging hens, while bans are on the way in Germany, Belgium, Czechia and Slovakia. Seven US states have phased out cage-egg production, and the EU has resolved to end the use of cages in farming by 2027.
Cordelia Britton, head of campaigns at The Humane League UK, said: “The government’s welcome words about supporting animal welfare will remain unserious until the use of cages in egg production is banned.
“We call upon the government and Parliament to listen to the food industry and the general public and support this legislation.”
As many as 16 million chickens languish in cages across the UK, despite 76% of UK consumers considering the banning of cages to be a priority issue.