I am today laying an amendment to The Mutilations (Permitted Procedures) (England) 2007 before Parliament, principally to extend the use of routine beak trimming of laying hens beyond
Currently, the UK makes use of a derogation in the EU Council Directive 99/74/EC on the welfare of laying hens, which allows for beak trimming of laying hens that are less than 10 days old if carried out by qualified staff. The procedure is only permitted to prevent feather pecking and cannibalism. The Mutilations (Permitted Procedures) (England) Regulations 2007 implements this derogation but only allows routine beak trimming to be carried out until
The Farm Animal Welfare Council reviewed the evidence in 2007 and 2009. On both occasions it recommended that, until an alternative means of controlling injurious pecking in laying hens can be developed, the proposed ban on beak trimming should not be introduced, but should be deferred until it can be demonstrated reliably under commercial conditions that laying hens can be managed without beak trimming, without a greater risk to their welfare than that caused by beak trimming itself. The Farm Animal Welfare Council recommended that infra-red beak treatment should be the only method used routinely, as the evidence indicated that it does not induce chronic pain.
While the Government's long-term goal is to ban routine beak trimming, the Farm Animal Welfare Council's advice represents a sensible and pragmatic approach in the circumstances we have inherited and is in the interests of laying hen welfare. A ban on beak trimming for laying hens at this current time would result in significant welfare problems through outbreaks of feather pecking and cannibalism. The Government consider it is therefore right that the legislation needs to be amended to remove the impending ban on routine beak trimming, which would otherwise come into force on
However, I want to emphasise that the Government see the proposed removal of the ban as very much an interim solution. The previous Government's consultation on proposals to amend the legislation, did not propose any date to review the policy or any date for a future ban. This Government have taken heed of the strength of feeling on this issue and decided to adopt the Farm Animal Welfare Council's recommendation of setting a review date of 2015. We will assess the output of this work, with a view to banning routine beak trimming in 2016. We are committed to working with the Beak Trimming Action Group to find solutions to this very complex issue and to establish an action plan, which will include the following key milestones leading up to a full review of beak trimming policy in 2015:
November 2010-Industry to be asked to carry out study tours to those European countries, such as Austria, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Switzerland where beak trimming is not carried out.
January 2011-The Beak Trimming Action Group (comprising key representatives from industry, welfare groups, scientific and veterinary professions) will be reconvened and I will attend the first meeting which will establish an action plan to develop a strategy to manage birds without the need to beak trim.
Spring 2011-Industry to feedback the experience of other countries to a meeting of the Beak Trimming Action Group.
Summer 2011-Beak Trimming Action Group to begin to consider the outputs of a three year intervention study by Bristol university, funded by the Tubney trust, on strategies to reduce the need for beak trimming with a view to ending the practice by 2016.
2012-2014-Hold regular meetings of the Beak Trimming Action Group to gather data from producers on their experiences in managing flocks over two cycles in alternative systems, which will be fed into the review.
2015-Review established to assess the achievements on the elimination of beak trimming to date. The review will advise whether a ban on routine beak trimming of laying hens will achieve the maximum welfare outcome, with a view to reinstating the ban in 2016.
2016-Provisional date for the ban on routine beak trimming of laying hens.