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Today (29th July 2016), marks a truly momentous moment for egg laying hens. Asda and Lidl have finally caved, and pledged to go cage free on all their whole shell eggs. These announcements follow a burst of cage free commitments from Aldi, Iceland, Morrisons and Tesco that have also pledged to phase out cages for laying hens.
A dramatic shift
This dramatic shift in corporate consciousness is the culmination of many years of public campaigning, engagement with retailers and tireless work behind the scenes by organisations including my own, Compassion in World Farming. Supermarkets have finally listened: farm animals deserve a cage free life.
These announcements by Asda, Lidl, Tesco, Morrisons, Aldi and Iceland are hugely welcome. They join other UK retailers such as Waitrose, Sainsbury's, Marks and Spencer and The Cooperative Food, that stopped selling eggs from caged systems some years ago, and have been recognised by Compassion's Good Egg Award scheme for their leadership.
In recent months we have also seen a seismic wave of food companies across America committing to a cage free future.
Despite this positive action, the timescales proposed by retailers in which to banish cages are longer than I would like. However, in spite of this, I very much welcome this positive step away from cages to a better, more humane life for hens. Unfortunately large scale changes like these cannot be made overnight and there are some legitimate obstacles that retailers need to overcome in order to phase out caged eggs.
Although battery cages were made illegal across the EU in 2012, the law allowed conventional cages to be replaced with so-called 'enriched' versions. Whilst 'enriched' cages are an improvement on the barren cages, they still do not permit hens to carry out their natural behaviours.
An investigation carried out by Compassion in 2015 revealed the horrific conditions that millions of hens are subjected to in 'enriched' cages across Europe - spending their entire lives closely confined, standing on wire mesh floors or slippery perches, and never seeing the light of day.
It is wonderful to think that within the next decade far fewer hens will be subjected to these appalling environments.
The evolving food industry
With more and more companies pledging to join the growing cage free movement worldwide, it is clear that the food industry is evolving and finally starting to see animal welfare at its heart.
I am delighted to say, that a cage free day is dawning. We are moving ever closer to a cage free future for egg laying hens.