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Producers threaten beak trimming ban

News Section Icon Published 03/04/2013

The introduction of a ban on the beak trimming of chickens could be delayed again if efforts made by industry groups to lobby parliament are successful.

Compassion is sad to learn that a number of groups are encouraging members to contact their MP's to call for a delay to a review of beak trimming policy in 2015, which is expected to be followed by a ban in 2016.

A regulation was enacted in 2002 to end the practice with a ban initially due to come into force on January 1st 2011. However, the Government was concerned that the industry was not ready to prevent cannibalism and feather pecking, so halted the ban and committed instead to a full review of the policy in 2015.

The Government asked the Beak Trimming Action Group, of which Compassion is a member, to develop solutions to this issue and an action plan to enable them to carry out the review.

However, producers groups such as the National Farmers' Union (NFU) and the British Egg Laying Industry Council (BEIC) are now actively seeking to delay then ban, once again.

Peter Stevenson, Chief Policy Advisor, Compassion in World Farming, said:

"I'm very disappointed at the actions of NFU and BEIC, who are both on Defra Beak Trimming Action Group and should be working constructively through this instead of again trying to get a possible ban postponed or dropped.

This is the second time the industry has done this - they effectively scuppered the ban due in 2011 by simply not preparing for it, thus effectively forcing the Government to drop it.

The ban was enacted in 2002 - just how long do they need?"

Compassion believes that rather than trying to delay the ban again, egg producers should be stepping up efforts to integrate knowledge gained from scientific research and practical experience in preventing feather pecking and cannibalism.

These include the provision of a rich environment to encourage foraging behaviour, an emphasis on reducing stress and encouraging better use of the environment in free range systems to allow hens to better use outside areas, by providing trees, popholes and hedges.

These measures would not only help farmers prevent destructive behaviour but would also improve welfare of the hens across the board.

Producers had argued that the recent introduction of infra-red beak trimming (IRBT) was less painful than older techniques involving a hot blade, and therefore a ban was less necessary.

However research suggests IRBT is responsible for pain during the early weeks of life and a recent paper concluded that IRBT "should not be viewed as the ideal solution to control cannibalism and feather pecking. Alternatives to trimming need to be investigated and implemented as soon as possible"

Find out more:

  • Our resource section contains detailed reports and briefings on laying hen welfare issues including beak trimming


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