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Science backs the beak trimming ban

News Section Icon Published 10/12/2009

A new report from Compassion in World Farming calls for an end to the beak trimming of laying hens and provides strong scientific evidence for why the UK ban on this mutilation should go ahead in 2011.

Compassion's report, Controlling Feather Pecking & Cannibalism in Laying Hens Without Beak Trimming, concludes that the correct way to prevent feather pecking and cannibalism is not to beak trim the hens, but to improve welfare by keeping them in good conditions and to use breeds that are less prone to feather pecking.

Beak trimming or 'debeaking' involves removing up to a third of a chicken's beak with a red-hot blade or an infra-red beam. This mutilation, used to prevent feather pecking and cannibalism in egg farming systems, causes pain; something that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) recognised when, in 2002, it decided to ban the beak trimming of laying hens.

The ban on beak trimming is due to come into force on 1st January 2011 and despite strong research to support the ban, Defra is now poised to drop this key animal welfare reform.

The Government advisory body, the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC), has recommended that the ban on beak trimming should be deferred for review in 2015, with no set date for implementation. Compassion argues that the science today is as strong as in 2002 and the eight years the industry were given to implement the ban was sufficient. Compassion in World Farming is urging Defra to uphold the ban on beak trimming and support alternative systems and practices that avoid this mutilation.

Peter Stevenson, Chief Policy Advisor at Compassion in World Farming said "The ban gave farmers a very generous eight year phase out period. Egg producers, however, have been slow to adapt their methods of production. It is totally unacceptable for them to now say they need more time. A number of farmers have shown that it is possible to avoid feather pecking without resorting to beak trimming."

85% of Waitrose eggs come from non-beak-trimmed birds. Other farmers can take example from Waitrose's suppliers in how to manage their farms without beak-trimming. UK farmers can also find examples of good practice in a number of countries where beak trimming is not carried out. These include Finland, Sweden and Norway.


ACT NOW - send an eCard to the UK government

Send an email to the UK Animal Welfare Minister calling on the Government to keep the 2011 ban on beak trimming.


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