In The News

Germany Moves Independently to Ban Battery Cages for Hens

The German Upper House (Bundesrat) of Parliament voted on October 19, 2001 in favor of a bill to reform hen housing legislation in Germany. The vote supports the 1999 finding by Germany's highest court—the German Constitutional Court—that battery cages violate German law. Thus, not only as a member state of the European Union but independently, Germany is expected to ban the cage including the so-called enriched cage. The new law, which is expected to come into force in 2002, will ban conventional battery cages by December 31, 2006—five years earlier than the EU ban by 2012. Enriched or furnished cages with perches, nest boxes, and scratching areas will be banned by the end of 2011. The height of any system in which hens are housed will have to be at least 2 meters high (about 6.5 feet high) as opposed to the 50 cm (20 inch) high cages in which hens are currently caged and in which they cannot stand fully upright. No more than 6,000 hens may be housed together in a single unit (as opposed to the conventional 85,000-100,000 hens caged in a single building in the U.S.). For every nine hens there must be at least one meter—10 square feet—of living space, which is slightly more than one square foot per hen. Nests may not be made of wire and new buildings must include natural light under the new law.

The Bundesrat is calling on the German Federal Government to encourage the EU to adopt Germany's standards so German egg producers will not be at a disadvantage. However, German consumer affairs minister Renate Kunast says that over 90% of German customers are opposed to battery farming and are willing to pay more for eggs from cage-free hens.