The Battle Over Battery Hens

Win One

European Parliament Votes To Ban Battery Cages; Historic Day for Hens

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 (, 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."