Battery hen production in Canada could be brought to an end five years sooner than originally planned, according to a new draft code for the care of egg-laying hens

The draft code, which is being released today (1 July) for public consultation, proposes that battery hen production is phased out by 2031.

At present around 90% of the country’s egg-producing hens are housed in cages, but the new National Farm Animal Care Council’s code for the care and handling of the birds wants this practice phased out.

In February this year, the Egg Farmers of Canada, which represents more than 1000 Canadian egg farmers, announced a pledge to move from conventional egg production to cage-free by 2036.

“Egg Farmers of Canada is committed to continuous improvements and a high standard of care for laying hens in a manner that is sustainable and implementable by all farmers in Canada,” said the chairman of Egg Farmers of Canada Peter Clarke.

Once finalised, the revised code will encourage good management and welfare practices, including housing, care, transport and other animal husbandry issues.

“Speeding the transition away from barren battery cages is the right thing to do,” said Barbara Cartwright, CEO of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, the only animal welfare organisation sitting on the Code Development Committee.

“We’re seeing a shift that will start to put egg producers on the right side of animal welfare science, which shows that hens experience extreme stress and frustration when they are unable to express natural behaviours.”

The new draft code could also see the introduction of world-leading cage-free standards for hens, in a response to public concern over the current lack of guidelines for how cage-free systems are operated.

“Unregulated, cage-free housing can be just as crowded and oppressive as barren battery cages, with no enrichment for the hens and much more aggression and stress,” pointed out Geoff Urton, of the CFHS “The new standards in this draft code will ensure that cage-free is as progressive as it sounds.”