A joint letter criticising the Government for its inaction on cages has been sent to Defra a year after its Action Plan for Animal Welfare was published.
In the letter, signatories expressed frustration at the Government’s inaction on the use of cages in egg production, despite its year-old commitment to “examining the use of cages for laying hens”.
Cordelia Britton, head of programs at The Humane League UK, said: “This government gained power on a raft of progressive animal welfare policies, and promised not to fall behind the EU.
“The EU is working towards a ban on cages – meanwhile our government vowed to ‘examine’ the issue a year ago, and have done nothing since. Hens in cages, and the concerned public, need something concrete. The Government needs to announce a consultation on this topic or risk breaching their trust.”
Charities The Humane League UK, RSPCA and Conservative Animal Foundation have spearheaded the letter as part of Beatrice’s Campaign, which seeks to ban cages for hens.
Celebrities Lucy Watson and James Dunmore, actor Peter Egan, broadcaster Kirsty Gallacher and veterinarian Marc Abraham OBE have added their names to the letter.
They were joined by MPs including Henry Smith, who tabled a bill to ban cages in September 2021, and former Green Party leader Caroline Lucas.
Ms Britton claimed that as many as 14 million chickens languish in cages across the UK, despite 76% of UK consumers considering the banning of cages to be a priority issue.
“Cages severely impact the wellbeing of hens, restricting their movement and frustrating their ability to perform innate behaviours like wing flapping, stretching, body shaking, tail wagging, foraging, dust-bathing, perching and nesting” she said.
Lorraine Platt, co-Founder of the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, added:
“Every year 14 million hens are kept in tiny cages with hardly enough room to spread their wings. This is unacceptable for a nation which prides itself on strong farm welfare standards. “It is clear that there is strong political and public support for outlawing the use of cages for laying hens, with a recent poll suggesting 76% of consumers would like the banning of cages to be a priority for this Government.”
Ms Platt continued: “While we welcome the efforts of retailers leading the way in going cage-free, we still estimate that after these commitments there will remain eight million hens kept confined in cages for their whole lives.
“We urge the Government to bring legislation into greater alignment with political, public and retailer sentiment, and launch their planned consultation now, so we can finally ban laying hens from a life behind bars.”