Factory farming isn’t just legal; it is sanctioned and protected by our Government and the egg industry itself. Intensive farming operates on the principle of saving money by cutting corners and cramming as many animals into the smallest amount of space possible. This is how eggs are kept cheap.
Egg consumers have been duped into believing that life for laying hens has improved since the battery cage was made illegal across Europe in 2012. The newly-introduced enriched cage, which has replaced the battery cage in Britain, means hens continue to be confined, but now with up to 80 other cramped and frustrated hens. Hens are still packed into wire prisons – albeit prisons with a little more space. To be exact, it is around a postcard sized extra space per bird; still considerably less than needed for them to fully extend their wings.
Each visit by Viva! investigators at enriched cage units supplying millions of eggs to consumers each week have revealed gross conditions that cause similar welfare problems to those widely acknowledged to be present on battery cage units still in use around the world. Viva! has documented hens with extensive feather loss, dead adult and baby birds lying amongst live birds, evidence of beak mutilation, hens crammed into cages with no privacy or means of escape, air thick with dust, cage floors covered in faeces, birds who are sick and dying, barren cages, wire floors, and meagre ‘enrichment’ which is clearly making little, if any, improvement to the lives of incarcerated hens.
A minimum cage height of only 45cm can legally be provided. Hen continue to stand on excruciatingly uncomfortable and injurious sloping wire mesh floor. A so-called ‘nesting box’ is provided, along with perches and a litter area. These ‘enrichments’ provide little stimulation and may never be used by some of the birds due to competition from others in the cage. The flaws in the enriched cage system are highlighted by the fact that beak trimming continues to be carried out as routine on day old chicks. These mutilations involve handling stress, immediate and, in some cases, long lasting pain.
The enriched cage fails to cater for the hen's physical and behavioural needs on a staggering scale, and imposes gross restrictions on basic movements. It is widely condemned by scientists, experts, and Viva!, yet the British public remain blissfully unaware of the painful and frustrating reality for billions of hens housed on enriched cage farms. Free range egg production has decreased, whilst enriched cage egg production has increased. In 2014, fifty two per cent of eggs laid in Britain were from hens incarcerated in cages and, in 2015, there were still more caged hens than free range.
As has been revealed time and time again in undercover investigations that conditions on free range farms are dismal (see below).