There will be a debate on an e-petition relating to the caging of farm animals in Westminster Hall at 6pm on Monday 16 March 2020. The debate will be opened by Kerry McCarthy MP.

A Parliamentary petition End the Cage Age: ban cages for all farmed animals received 107,187 signatures in the six months to 8 September 2019:

Across the UK, millions of farmed animals are kept in cages, unable to express their natural behaviours. This causes huge suffering.

We call on the UK government to end this inhumane practice by banning all cages for farmed animals. Cages are cruel.

This cannot be the future of British farming.

We, the undersigned, call on the Secretary of State for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs to bring forward legislation that amends the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007 to prohibit the use of:

a) barren and enriched cages for farmed animals including cages for laying hens, rabbits, pullets, broiler breeders, layer breeders, quail, pheasants, partridges, guinea fowl;
b) farrowing crates for sows;
c) individual calf pens

A response from the Government was published on the petition page on 22 March 2019 which highlighted bans had been introduce where there was “clear scientific evidence that they are detrimental to animal health and welfare” and that there are comprehensive laws protect the welfare of livestock in all systems”.

The rules relating for the use of a range of confinement systems for farmed animals are set out in the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007.

An article on the British Veterinary Association website summarised some of the benefits and concerns relating to the use of a range confinement systems in UK farming:

Proponents of these confinement systems refer to their favourable health and productivity outcomes – for example, reduced prevalence of infectious diseases, reduced risk of keel bone damage in hens and reduced piglet mortality. But prioritising a limited repertoire of health and performance outcomes and excluding behavioural enrichment fails to capture the full impact of a farming practice or assurance scheme on animal welfare.[1]

The campaign End the Cage Age is being run by range of animal welfare organisations in the UK and across Europe, including Compassion in World Farming which has published a report of the same title. They view use of cages in farming as cruel:

Science shows us that caging animals is cruel: they are sentient beings, capable of feeling pain and joy. These farming systems cause immense suffering because animals in cages have no control over their lives, experience extreme frustration, are severely restricted in their movement, and are prevented from performing almost all natural behaviours.[2]

An animal welfare report published by the NFU in 2018, looking at international comparisons, stated:

The UK has one of the most robust and comprehensive legal frameworks protecting animal welfare, extremely mature and well-developed industry bodies that recognise the importance of animal welfare, and a significant number of credible quality assurance and welfare schemes and/or initiatives.[3]

The Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation called for ban on the use of cages, in advance of the December 2019 election, together with a review of the intensive cages used to rear game birds.

Labour’s Animal Welfare Manifesto made a pledge to “seek to end the ‘cage age’ of outdated farming practices that cause animals distress and restrict natural behaviour” and provide support to farmers moving to higher welfare standards. It also committed to introduce legislation on the use of cages for the rearing of game birds.

[1]     BVA, Consideration of behavioural opportunity in farm animal welfare standards, September 2018

[2]     CIWF, End the Cage Age, 2018

[3]     NFU, Animal welfare global review summary report, February 2018