Almost 2m hens living in cages with space ‘the size of A4 sheets’ in Ireland

ISPCA urges people to think about what kind of conditions the eggs they eat originate from

ISPCA ambassador Holly White is pictured as the  organisation sought to draw attention to its campaign which aims to end the caging of hens.  Photograph: Laura Hutton/The Irish Times.

ISPCA ambassador Holly White is pictured as the organisation sought to draw attention to its campaign which aims to end the caging of hens. Photograph: Laura Hutton/The Irish Times.

 

Some 1.9 million hens in Ireland live in cages with just 75cmsq per bird, about the same size s a sheet of A4 paper, the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) has said.

The organisation on Thursday asked Irish consumers to use the Easter break to spend time thinking “where do your eggs really come from?” as it sought to draw attention to a European petition to “end the cage”.

ISPCA chief executive Dr Andrew Kelly said the organisation was not against egg-farming. However, he said better living conditions for hens meant better quality eggs which commanded better prices and offered consumers a heathier product. He said improving the living conditions of the animals was “a win-win-win” situation.

The ISPCA is working with Eurogroup for Animals and Compassion in World Farming to seek a ban on the use of cages by 2025. He said Tesco, McDonalds, Aldi and Lidl had already gone “cage free” when choosing the eggs they sell.

‘Battery’

The use of “barren” or “battery” cages, where the hens are individually held, was banned in the EU from 2012 for welfare reasons, but “enriched” cages can still be used. These allow slightly more movement to hens who are caged collectively, but still limit natural behaviours such as exercising.

Although individual cages are not used, in enriched cages each hen has just about the same space as an A4 sheet of paper, Dr Kelly said.

So far the ‘End the Cage Age’ campaign, a European Citizen’s Initiative which is seeking to get one million signatures, has been supported by more than 700,000 EU citizens , including close to 7,000 in Ireland.

Egg producers and retailers are required to label their egg packaging which is displayed on the inside of all egg cartons. How a hen has lived and laid her eggs must be stamped on the packs. The number 1 means that the egg is free range, 2 means originating from a barn, 3 for caged hens and 0 for organic.

“The End the Cage Age initiative is the single biggest and most collaborative animal welfare campaign to be launched in this generation,” Dr Kelly said.

“Over 140 animal welfare organisations across Europe are participating, and we are incredibly close to one million EU Citizens supporting a cage-free future for farm animals.”