On January 28th, the European Parliament of the European
Union voted to ban the use of battery cages for hens used for egg
production from January 1, 1999. The European Commission, which
is the government administration of the European Union, had
called for a few more centimeters of cage space for the hens. But
a two-thirds majority of the Parliament said Not Bigger Cages,
But No Cages.
The vote came two days after a report published by
Compassion in World Farming revealed the severe damage the
battery-cage system does to the health and welfare of caged hens.
The report found that battery cage imprisonment denies hens
exercise to the point where their bones snap. The hens' bones can
become "so brittle that the ribs give way causing the heart to be
punctured," according to the report.
The vote was passed, but the fight is not yet over. The
European Union (EU) includes 15 member countries including Great
Britain. According to World Animal Net (http://worldanimal.net),
the biggest obstacle will be "the collective body of ministers of
Agriculture from each of the 15 EU countries. They have the final
say and pressure on national governments will be needed to make
them take a position in favor of a ban."
Farm Animal Welfare Network (previously known as Chickens'
Lib), who has campaigned for the abolition of the battery cage
since 1970, said: "This EU vote assures us we haven't wasted our
time, but we won't be celebrating until we hear what the Farm
Ministers decide. It's heartbreaking to think of the millions of
battery hens still destined to suffer, but at the moment we have
to rejoice at the prospect of a probable victory, and a certain
and significant change in attitudes."
Compassion in World Farming's campaign director, Philip
Lymbery, said the EU's vote made for a "tremendous day for animal
welfare." He said, "We are delighted that the European Parliament
has voted against this system and we now look to the EU
agriculture ministers to ensure this system is consigned to the
scrap heap of history."
In a news release, United Poultry Concerns urged, "It is
time for the United States and Canada to climb aboard the Freedom
for Battery Hens Ban-Wagon. It's time for these countries to face
the fact that a hen in a cage puts not only heaven in a rage,
but, more importantly, the vast majority of people, who can do
something about it. The European Parliament has lighted the way
for those of us who are fighting to get the U.S. Department of
Agriculture to formally recognize that chickens are animals and
that so-called poultry are farm animals. The vote is a victory
for the birds and for our struggle on their behalf in a country
that, to date, accords to birds and to farmed animals no federal
protection at all."