UK government advisory body, the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC), is under fire following a recent report where it gave credence to so-called 'enriched' cages for laying hens.
Barren battery cages will be banned across the European Union by 2012. Regrettably, so-called 'enriched' cages, which provide little more space and bare minimum provisions for things such as nesting and dustbathing, will remain legal. It is appalling that FAWC has come out in favour of these glorified battery cages when public opinion is shifting so clearly to cage-free alternatives such as free-range and organic.
This latest statement from FAWC has echoes of a decade ago when a report from the same body failed to call for an unequivocal ban on barren battery cages. Condemned at the time by Compassion in World Farming as "mealy-mouthed and deeply disappointing," this latest report seems out of the same stable.
Compassion in World Farming cannot accept FAWC's conclusion that the welfare of laying hens kept in 'enriched' cages is "acceptable".
Evidence shows that 'enriched' cages provide a seriously restricted and inadequate environment that prevents meaningful exercise, frustrates natural behaviours such as dust-bathing and foraging and causes abnormal behaviours and body degeneration.
Compassion in World Farming's long-term fear is that the use of 'enriched' cages will hold back real progress in the development and uptake of truly higher welfare systems. We believe that FAWC has missed a golden opportunity to provide decisive leadership to a farming industry that needs clear direction on future investment.
Rather than clinging to cages, the visionary approach must surely be to move to systems that genuinely offer the potential for higher welfare such as free-range and organic. Thankfully, major food companies, such as Sainsbury's, McDonald's and Unilever, are moving ahead of policy advisers and going cage-free on eggs.