Rishi Sunak told to cluck off as constituency covered in caged hens

Rishi Sunak’s constituency has been covered in images of caged hens as part of a bold publicity campaign calling on the government to ban cages in farming. The government last year pledged to look into banning the practice – but animal rights charity the Humane League say they have since been met with “radio silence”.

The Government’s 2021 Action Plan for Animal Welfare promised to examine the use of cages for laying hens, while in 2022 Defra ministers Victoria Prentis and Steve Double respectively said that the Government was “committed to phasing out confinement systems” and that “Transitioning to non-caged systems continues to be a government priority”. However, the use of cages in farming remains legal.

An estimated 10 million hens across the UK are kept in cages. While the minuscule cages that make up battery farming were banned in 2012, so-called “enriched” cages – which remain restrictive to the animals – are still allowed.

A 2020 survey, commissioned by Compassion in World Farming, found that 88 percent of Brits believe the use of cages in farming is cruel – with 77 percent supporting an outright ban on the practice. 

Ms Britton added: “The public reaction to the campaign has been very positive. We had around twenty volunteers protesting Westminster on Sunday, and barely anyone they approached wanted to argue that hens are better off in cages. Frankly, that would be plain daft.

“This is a no-brainer, popular policy with relevant sectors, but the Government needs a kick to make it happen.”

All major UK retailers – including Tesco, Iceland, Morrisons and Asda – have already committed to a 2025 deadline to transition to sourcing only cage-free eggs. Meanwhile, in 2017, the RSPCA announced that sales of cage-free eggs overtook those of caged, further indicating public support.

But there remains a lack of government guidance to support a nationwide shift. Small restaurants and shops still make use of caged hens, meaning there remains a continued market for the cruel practice. 

Ms Brittion conceded that “there may be a small uptick” in costs of producing eggs due to the change, but said it should be “marginal.” She added: “You can find cheap cage-free eggs for as little as 3p more than the cheapest caged eggs.”

Piling pressure on the government to ban the practice, the EU is expected to propose its own legislation to ban cages later this year. Denmark, Germany, Austria and Switzerland have already done so.

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The policy is also currently in the Labour Party manifesto, and is supported by Liberal Democrats, SNP, and The Green Party.

Support for it even comes within the Conservatives’ own ranks. A petition launched last year by The Humane League UK, RSPCA, and The Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation asking the Government to ban cages for hens achieved over 100,000 signatures.

Express.co.uk has contacted the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for comment.

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