Defra has launched a consultation on its draft statutory code of practice for the welfare of laying hens.
The code, which covers England, provides improved, up-to-date guidance on the current legislation and reflects the latest scientific and veterinary knowledge.
Animal Welfare Minister Lord Gardener said that under the proposals producers would be expected to provide a more enriched environment for all laying hens to enable them to display more of their natural behaviours such as foraging.
The codes, which will be used by enforcement bodies including Animal and Plant Health Agency inspectors and local authorities, provide detailed guidance for producers on how to assess the welfare of their animals, as well as on contingency planning to ensure welfare is maintained during emergencies.
Lord Gardiner added: “We have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world and are going further, including raising maximum sentences for animal cruelty to 5 years and introducing mandatory CCTV in abattoirs.”
The 6 week long consultation for laying hens closes on 9 March. New guidance is expected to become available later this year.
Meanwhile, Defra has placed its draft code of practice for the welfare of meat chickens in the House of Commons following a consultation last year. If there are no parliamentary objections, it will become law in March.
In 2016, a new code of practice, put together by industry, was rescinded by Government but the NFU is now content with the changes.
Gary Ford, NFU chief poultry adviser, said: “We welcome the new code given that it reflects current best practice in industry. British farmers produce poultry meat to very high standards and welfare is key to that; now the code of practice reflects those high standards.
“We are also really please that Defra has actioned our suggestion to keep the code under review to incorporate developments made by industry in terms of welfare. It is vital that such an important document remains relevant and current for our farmers,” he added.