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What is the RSPCA's position on battery cages?

Article ID: 103
Last updated: 24 Nov, 2017
Revision: 13
Views: 27777

For many years, the RSPCA has been actively campaigning against battery cages. Battery cages are completely barren – hens in battery cages experience extreme confinement and behavioural restriction, without enough space to even stretch their wings. Due to the inability to walk, flap their wings, or perch, hens in battery cages suffer very poor muscle and bone strength, a high rate of bone fractures, frustration, abnormal behaviours, and poor welfare. The ability to perform natural behaviours is important to positive welfare in poultry.

Many scientific studies have concluded that good welfare cannot be achieved in battery cages. The overwhelming consensus among animal welfare experts is that the welfare of hens in battery cages is severely compromised. The whole of the European Union and the United Kingdom have legally phased out battery cages, and Canada and New Zealand are currently phasing them out. These decisions were based on comprehensive scientific reviews. A detailed scientific European report makes a clear case against battery cages.

Following are just some of the reasons why the RSPCA will continue to lobby governments to ban the use of battery cages:

  • Battery cages are small, barren wire cages; there are many thousands of cages stacked in sheds that may contain up to 100,000 birds.
  • The space given to each bird is less than the size of a piece of A4 paper and cages are only 40 cm high.
  • Hens do not have enough space to stretch or flap their wings, or exercise.
  • Scientific studies indicate that battery hens suffer in battery cages. Restricted movement, constantly standing on a wire floor, and a lack of perches lead to severe bone and muscle weakness.
  • Hens cannot express normal behaviours which they are highly motivated to perform, such as wing flapping, scratching the ground, dust bathing, perching, nesting, and foraging.
  • Caged hens do not have ‘personal space’ so they cannot escape aggression from other hens.
  • Battery cages have no nesting area — nesting before and during egg laying is a priority for hens and this deficiency frustrates and distresses them.

In Australia, more and more people have been buying cage-free eggs at the supermarket over the past 5 years. Despite this, more than 11 million layer hens, or around two-thirds of all layer hens in Australia, are still confined to battery cages. With the current review of the minimum standards for poultry, now is the first real opportunity in approximately 15 years to legislate a phase out of battery cages.

Now is the time for the egg industry and legislators to initiate a phase-out of battery cages on achievable terms.

Find out more about the science of battery cages and alternative systems by reading RSPCA’s scientific report here, and lend your voice to the RSPCA’s campaign against battery cages here.

This website provides general information which must not be relied upon or regarded as a substitute for specific professional advice, including veterinary advice. We make no warranties that the website is accurate or suitable for a person's unique circumstances and provide the website on the basis that all persons accessing the website responsibly assess the relevance and accuracy of its content.
Also read
document Can the RSPCA prosecute farmers for keeping animals in intensive systems?
document What is the difference between free range, bred free range, organic, sow-stall free?
document How can I shop for animal-welfare friendly food?
document What is the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme?
document What are the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme standards for layer hens?
document Where can I buy RSPCA Approved chicken, eggs, pork and turkey?
document RSPCA Policy B2 Intensive farming practices
document What are the animal welfare issues with duck farming in Australia?
document Can the needs of layer hens be met in furnished cages?
document How could egg producers manage the change from battery cage systems to alternative systems?
document How much space does a free-range layer hen need?
document How can free-range layer hens be encouraged to use the range area?
document Do layer hens suffer from bone problems?
document How can feather pecking be managed in cage-free layer hen systems?
document Are stress levels of hens in battery cages the same as those of hens in cage-free egg production systems?
document What is the RSPCA doing to get hens out of battery cages?
document What is beak trimming?
document Can layer hen mortality, pests, parasites, disease and predation be managed in non-cage systems?
document Why is it important for layer hens to express normal behaviours?

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