So-called 'enriched' cages for hens have been roundly condemned by the main animal welfare organisations involved in farm animal issues on both sides of the Atlantic.
A joint statement has been produced following moves by the European Union and some forward-looking states in the US, such as California, which have banned barren battery cages. The fear is that some producers may seek to use modified or so-called 'enriched' cages instead. These cages provide a small amount of extra space and objects that often bear a distant resemblance to the things that matter to hens, such as a place to nest, a perch and a place to dust-bathe. Ultimately, they confine the hens and constrain behaviours. A cage is still a cage.
The full statement, signed by Compassion in World Farming, the Humane Society of the United States, the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) and the RSPCA and others, reads:
Joint statement against modified or 'enriched' cages
The major animal protection organisations in the United States and European Union listed below that focus on the treatment of farm animals are opposed to modified cages, sometimes referred to as furnished, or so-called 'enriched' cage confinement of laying hens.
It is clear that such modified cages fail to properly meet the hens' physical or behavioural needs. They provide an unacceptably restrictive amount of space per bird; severely restrict many important physical activities, including running, flying, and wing-flapping; and do not permit unrestrained perching and dustbathing. The severe restriction of the hens' ability to exercise is likely to lead to frustration, bone weakness and osteoporosis - clear indicators of poor welfare.
Despite the modifications, these cages are unable to provide an acceptable level of welfare for hens. The egg industry, food companies and other stakeholders within the food industry should do the right thing and end the use of all cages to confine laying hens.
Compassion in World Farming
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA)
The Humane Society of the United States
The Humane Farming Association
Animal Welfare Institute
World Society for the Protection of Animals
Eurogroup for Animals