Vegetarians International Voice for Animals

Viva! Calls For Supermarkets to Follow Asda's Egg Layer Lead

Release date: 
Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Asda supermarkets have announced plans to release 500,000 British laying hens from battery cages into sheds (barns) by May Day and will no longer sell battery eggs under its standard range. It will, however, continue to sell cheap battery eggs under its own label value range. Animal welfare group Viva! congratulates Asda for having taken a step in the right direction and calls upon all other supermarkets to follow suit and phase out cruel and barbaric battery cages. Battery hens are usually confined five to a cage little bigger than a microwave oven, with thousands of cages stacked in tiers inside a single shed. The birds spend their lives like this and are slaughtered for cheap meat products once their egg-laying productivity drops off, usually after two years. 'Barn' eggs are laid by hens who are confined to a shed, often in filthy, cramped conditions. Flock sizes can be huge, with some barns housing up to 16,000 birds and stocking densities of more than 15 birds per square metre. 'Both methods are highly intensive and provide extremely poor animal welfare but the battery system is uniquely cruel', says Viva! campaigner, Justin Kerswell. "For this reason we see Asda's decision as a step in the right direction and being a fairly down-market chain, there is now no excuse for other supermarkets not to follow suit. If they fail to do so we will have confirmation of what Viva!'s undercover investigations have already revealed " their claims of high animal welfare standards are nothing more than marketing hype.' With around 30 million laying hens in the UK, 70 per cent of whom are in battery cages, Asda's decision will affect approximately two-and-a-half per cent of the UK battery flock. The remainder will continue to suffer severe confinement, debeaking to stop feather pecking and cannibalisation, broken bones from osteoporosis and a string of other diseases. Barn hens are also likely to be diseased and debeaked, which involves amputation of part of the upper beak with a red-hot blade or with clippers. Beaks are highly sensitive organs and the mutilation can result in death from shock or permanent pain. 'Asda's move comes ahead of the European Union's decision to slightly increase cage sizes from 2012 because of poor animal welfare. Asda has trumpeted its decision to "release' 500,000 birds because it also sees battery cages as being cruel. Despite this, it will continue to sell battery eggs under its own label value range though it knows they are a direct product of cruelty. It does smack of double standards and Viva! calls on Asda to go the whole way and end the sale of battery eggs entirely', concludes Kerswell. For more information contact Justin Kersell on 0117 944 1000. [ends]