Scotland could be first in UK to ban egg companies from keeping chickens in cages

2 April 2024, 13:20 | Updated: 2 April 2024, 15:20

Scotland could become the first nation in the UK to ban egg companies from keeping chickens in cages.

The Scottish government has launched a consultation on banning the use of cages to house laying hens for egg production.

Views are being sought on the phasing out of "enriched cages", which offer more room for the birds to nest, roost, scratch and rest than the battery or barren cages that were banned in the UK in 2012.

Agriculture minister Jim Fairlie highlighted Holyrood's most recent programme for government, which included a commitment to "improve the welfare of laying hens to ensure their confinement does not negatively impact their normal behaviours".

He added: "Significant progress has already been made in recognising the importance of animal welfare - both in government policies and the demand from the public in the choice they make when shopping.

"If implemented, the ban would be another example of Scotland leading the way in improving the welfare of animals by being the first UK nation to ban the practice."

The Scottish government said more than 1.1 million hens were housed in cages in Scotland as of February 2024.

A YouGov survey in 2020 found almost nine out of 10 people (88%) in the UK believe using cages in farming is cruel, with more than three quarters (77%) supporting a complete ban on their use.

The Scottish government's preference is for a ban on the installation of new cages from 2030, with this followed by a complete ban on enriched cage production from 2034.

Ministers believe this option "most effectively balances improvements in bird welfare and ensures sustainability for the laying hen sector".

The consultation also seeks views on banning the use of enriched cages from 2030, as well as a non-regulatory option, which would see shops and caterers pledge to commit to stop selling and using eggs from birds kept in enriched cages by 2034.

The consultation will run for 12 weeks, until Tuesday 25 June.

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Mr Fairlie added: "We've seen the European Union put forward legislation to prohibit using cages for all farmed livestock, with Luxembourg and Austria already banning them and others phasing them out.

"In the coming weeks [we] will also call for evidence on the use of cages in the gamebird and quail egg and meat sectors ahead of consulting on phasing out cages in those sectors in due course.

"I would encourage everyone with an interest in this issue to take part to help us shape how we protect the welfare of laying hens."