Last week, MPs debated the petition brought by Compassion in World Farming, which we supported, to End the Cage Age across the UK.

The petition, which gathered more than 109,000 signatures, calls on the UK Parliament to ban the use of cages for farmed animals.

During the debate, the Farming Minister, responding for the Government, confirmed that they will bring forward consultations on cages for egg-laying hens and farrowing crates for sows. No specific date was outlined, however.

Debate highlights

The scale of the cruelty

Sow and piglets in crate

Matt Vickers MP (Conservative) led the debate, noting that 35.5% of all eggs are from caged hens and more than 50% of sows are placed in farrowing crates before giving birth. They are kept in these confined systems until their piglets are weaned a few weeks later- this means that approximately 200,000 sows are confined in farrowing crates for 9-10 weeks every year, and in some cases even longer.

Learn more about the welfare issues of these systems here.

Vickers noted that now ‘is the time to work with the industry to find a way forward that protects both piglets and sows’ and called on the UK Government ‘to ensure an informed and achievable transition plan is put in place’.

Animal welfare concerns

There was cross party support for an end to the cage age in the UK.

Justin Madders MP (Labour) stated:

If we really are to call ourselves a progressive nation of animal lovers, we must phase out this cruel welfare practice.’

He also touched on the suffering of animals in these intensive caged systems:

Every year that passes by without actions means millions of animals are kept in unnatural and often distressing conditions.’

Theresa Villiers MP (Conservative) stated her support for a move to cage free systems for hens:

Now is the time to set a timetable for an end to enriched cages.’

Patricia Gibson MP (SNP) noted that 78% of residents of the UK oppose factory farming and commented:

It really is time to end the cage age once and for all.’

Daniel Zeichner MP (Labour) highlighted the wider failing of our food system as a whole, stating:

Our food system is not working and it is failing animals, it is failing the environment and often it is failing the consumer.

You can read more about our recent success in improving Scotland’s food system here.

Banning imports of products from caged animals

Several MPs noted the importance of banning the import of products into the UK that were produced at the expense of animals suffering in cages. In addition, the EU Commission is currently considering prohibiting the import of products from caged systems. The EU is the UK’s biggest export market for food products and if thus if the UK does not implement a ban, they would be losing a key market.

MPs also raised concerns that the UK would fall behind the EU if it did not commit to a ban on caged systems – the EU Commission recently announced its plans to propose legislation to phase out caged systems for farmed animals by 2027.

UK Government response

Responding for the UK Government, the Farming Minister, Victoria Prentis, announced that the Government will be bringing forward consultations on the use of enriched cages for egg-laying hens and farrowing crates for sows. We welcome this announcement, but urge the UK Government to provide a time frame for when we can expect these consultations to be published.

The Scottish Government has confirmed that it seeks to work collaboratively with the UK Government to ensure farmed animal welfare is of the highest standards.