The Government shares the public’s high regard for animal welfare and the welfare of our farmed livestock in all systems is protected by comprehensive and robust legislation. This is backed up by statutory species specific welfare codes, which encourage high standards of husbandry and which keepers are required by law to have access to and be familiar with. Defra’s Animal and Plant Health Agency inspectors and local authorities conduct inspections on farms to check that the animal welfare standards are being met.
Whatever the system of production, the most important factor in determining animal welfare is good stockmanship and the correct application of husbandry standards. This reflects the advice of the Farm Animal Welfare Committee.
We have already banned cages or close confinement systems where there is clear scientific evidence that they are detrimental to animal health and welfare. For example, we banned the use of conventional (‘battery’) cages for laying hens in 2012.
The new statutory Code of Practice for the Welfare of Laying Hens and Pullets, which came into force last year, provides improved and up-to-date guidance on welfare legislation and reflects the latest scientific and veterinary advice. I am aware that all major supermarkets have said they will stop selling eggs from hens kept in enriched cages by 2025.