OneKind is calling for a ban on the use of enriched cages for hens and farrowing crates for sows.
Farm animals need to walk, run, fly and peck, stretch, flap their wings and roll in the dust. Yet millions of them spend their lives confined in tiny cages, unable to carry out these natural behaviours.
OneKind is calling on the Scottish Government to ban this type of confinement which is still found in enriched cages for egg-laying hens and farrowing crates for sows. It follows a petition by Compassion in World Farming calling on the UK Government to ban cages for farm animals, which OneKind supports.
Millions of laying hens in Scotland spend their entire lives confined in cages while breeding sows will spend several weeks in a crate every time they give birth. These cruel and inhumane cages mean that sentient animals that can feel joy and pain are being deprived of their natural behaviours by their confinement in small cages, some of which don’t even allow the animal to turn around.
What is the problem with cages?
Forced into cages and crates, some farm animals in Scotland are unable to live a life worth living as these cramped conditions cause both health and welfare problems.
While the conventional battery cage system may have been banned in Europe since 2012, hens can still be kept in so-called enriched cages for their entire lives. These cages provide each hen with an area little more than the size of an A4 piece of paper, a nest box, scratching mat and a perch. Hens kept in these cages have their natural behaviours extremely limited as they cannot run, fly or even experience fresh air and sunlight.
There has been a great deal of research into the different systems used for keeping egg-laying hens, and none of these is perfect. However, hens living in well-managed free range or barn systems generally have additional space for natural behaviours and comfort, and more welfare benefits, compared with caged systems.
What is the current legislation?
Enriched cages are legal and around 2 million hens in Scotland are kept in these systems. Farm animal assurance schemes often have higher standards that the basic legislation and enriched cages are either banned or phased out under all of these apart from the Lion minimum standards. We believe that the Scottish Government should be working to phase out the remaining enriched cages and move towards all hens in Scotland being in free-range systems.
A pregnant pig will be placed in a farrowing crate a week before her due date and she will remain there with her piglets until they are weaned at around 3-4 weeks. The aim of the crate is to reduce piglet mortality by prevent the sow from accidentally crushing them. The cages therefore severely restrict movement and pigs placed in them cannot even walk or turn around and they cannot move away if the piglets bite them while feeding. The lack of, or inadequate provision of, materials such as straw or peat also stops sows from fulfilling their strong nest-building instincts and this causes stress.
What is the current legislation?
Legislation still allows the use of farrowing crates from 7 days before a sow’s due date and until the piglets are weaned. The Soil Association, Scottish Organic Producers Association (SOPA) and RSPCA schemes do not allow the use of farrowing crates but Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) still does. That’s why we’re calling on the Scottish Government to phase out these cruel and restrictive cages in Scotland.
What are OneKind doing?
OneKind has long campaigned to better the conditions facing millions of farm animals in Scotland. Our most recent work included:
- In 2018, we launched a campaign calling on the Scottish Government to ban the live exports of animals.
- Our 2018 campaign to bring in CCTV in Scottish abattoirs resulted in a commitment by the Scottish Government to introduce compulsory video recording in all relevant areas of slaughterhouses in Scotland.
- In 2019, we have been supporting Compassion in World Farming’s #EndCageAge campaign by calling for a ban on enriched cages for hens and farrowing crates for sows in Scotland.
How can I help Scotland’s farm animals?