The year 2012 marked a leap forward for animal welfare in the European Union. Farmers were no longer allowed to keep egg-laying hens in barren battery cages smaller than an A4 sheet of paper. Instead, the minimum requirement now is that hens are kept in a cage the size of an A4 sheet of paper, with an extra postcard-sized bit of shared space that allows them to scratch and nest. These are known as enriched cages. Animal welfare campaigners would like to see them abolished too, saying they barely make a difference to the birds’ ability to express their natural behaviour and live free from stress. Around half of the eggs we eat are still produced in caged systems. Full debeaking to prevent hens pecking each other is no longer allowed either, but beak clipping is still permitted in egg-laying hens. Their primary sensory organ is typically clipped at a day old, whether caged or free range. Progress here is that farmers must now use infrared lasers to carry out the process rather than the hot blade of previous days. It is cleaner but remains painful to the bird. Industrial egg-laying hens have been bred to produce more and faster,… Read full this story
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