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The Scottish government last week announced a new consultation on outlawing the use of cages to house hens involved in egg production

The egg industry has expressed “serious concerns” over the proposed ban on colony cages in Scotland.

The Scottish government last week announced a new consultation on outlawing the use of cages to house hens involved in egg production.

While the use of battery cages for birds was banned in the UK in 2012, many farmers still use enriched cages in egg production.

“With a substantial proportion of the UK’s eggs produced in Scotland, a ban could lead to job losses and a direct impact on its economy, as well as reducing the number of eggs in the market, putting additional pressure on free-range supply,” said Gary Ford, British Egg Industry Council chief.

Giving consumers choice in a cost of living crisis

The current situation allowed producers to be “responsive to market needs” and enabled consumers to “choose eggs from different productions, which are all clearly labelled”, he added.

“In the UK, around a quarter of eggs consumed are laid by hens kept in enriched colony cage systems, meeting demand for affordable, nutritious, high-quality food, and providing a vital option for a large section of the population, particularly during the ongoing cost of living crisis.

“Producers in Scotland who export to the rest of the UK will also be disadvantaged by the proposed changes,” said Ford.

“Unless Scotland is planning to close its borders it is likely that, in the event of a cage ban, retailers and foodservice operators will resort to importing caged eggs from outside the UK, potentially with significantly lower welfare standards,” he added. The UK still had trade deals in place with countries using battery cage systems, which are illegal in the UK, he said.

Protecting the welfare of hens

According to Ford, the welfare of laying hens from all production systems was of “primary importance” to producers.

However, animal welfare campaigners have welcomed the proposals. Cages were “cruel and unnecessary as higher-welfare cage-free systems are viable”, said Anthony Field, head of Compassion in World Farming UK.

“This is an important step along the path to ending the cage age for all farmed animals in the UK,” he added. “It’s also vital that farmers are supported through this transition to new higher-welfare systems.”

“Scotland are leading the way in the UK and it’s time for the UK government to listen and deliver on their promised consultation on the use of cages for egg-laying hens as well.”