Cages are to be outlawed for laying hens and broiler breeders in the Czech Republic from 2027.
This decision came after a vote in the Czech Senate, the Upper House of Parliament last week, which confirmed the ban on cages passed by the Lower House in September.
The ban will affect approximately 4.5m hens that are raised in cages each year in the Czech Republic and puts the nation in line with neighbouring Slovakia, which also agreed to phase out laying hen cages earlier this year. The move prompted animal welfare groups to call on the European Commission to ban “enriched” cages. Although barren cages have been outlawed since 2012, welfare groups argue that enriched cages prevent birds from performing many of their natural behaviours, such as dust-bathing and wing-flapping.
Romana Sonkova, Compassion in World Farming’s spokesperson in the Czech Republic, said the vote sent a clear message to egg producers to stop investing in enriched cages. “While 2027 seems a long wait for the ban, many big retailers have already committed to stop selling caged eggs from 2025, paving the way for a quicker transition away from cages.”
Earlier this autumn, a team of researchers led by Damian Konkol of the Department of Environment Hygiene and Animal Welfare at Wroclaw University, Poland, published a paper on the effects of an enriched laying environment on welfare, performance and egg quality of laying hens kept in cages. The study, published in Poultry Science, found that enriching laying hens’ cages with additional feeders improved the welfare of the hens. Enrichment of cages significantly reduced the number of feather pecking and aggressive behaviours. Breast plumage was also significantly better than in a control group.
Drive to be cage-free but 2025 commitment looms nearer
Companies need to speed up their rate of transition to cage-free production to meet their 2025 commitment, says Compassion in World Farming (CIWF).
The current EU regulations say hens in enriched cages must have at least 750 square cm of cage per bird, have a nest, perching space, litter to allow pecking and scratching and unrestricted access to a feed trough.