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Scotland announces proposed ban on keeping chickens in cages 

Scotland has announced that it’s considering a ban on egg companies from keeping chickens in cages. The Scottish government has initiated a new consultation, which would make it the first country in the UK to prohibit the use of cages for housing hens involved in egg production.

Although the use of battery cages for birds was outlawed across the UK in 2012, Scotland still houses over 1.1 million chickens in “enriched cages.” These larger cages offer birds more space to nest, roost, and scratch compared to the cramped battery cages.

A 2020 survey revealed that an overwhelming majority of UK citizens, nearly nine out of ten (88%), perceive the use of cages in farming as cruel. Furthermore, more than three-quarters (77%) voiced support for a complete ban on their usage.

The Scottish government proposes a phased approach to transition away from cage-based systems. Their preferred option would mean banning the installation of new cages from 2033, followed by a complete ban on keeping birds in enriched cages from 2034. 

Ministers argue that this approach optimally balances improvements in bird welfare with the sustainability of the laying hen sector.

However, the consultation also invites opinions on expediting the timeline for banning the use of enriched cages to 2030. Additionally, it presents a non-regulatory alternative, suggesting that shops and caterers voluntarily commit to ceasing the sale and use of eggs from birds kept in enriched cages by 2034.

According to Scotland’s agriculture minister Jim Fairlie, the ban would “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.”

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