THE RSPCA has paused the introduction of controversial new standards for laying hens to “work closely with members and the industry to find practical solutions”.

It follows an outcry from the poultry sector over new requirements from the assurance scheme for verandas and natural light in layer sheds.

See also: Sector relief over RSPCA shelving some veranda plans – but concerns remain

In early November last year, the RSPCA said that starting on 1 May 2024, new members and those refurbishing sheds, whether barn or free-range, would be required to provide veranda space and natural light.

It also said existing barn and free-range members would require natural light provision at 3% of the floor area by 1 January 2030.

However, following feedback from the sector, it later extended the timeline for natural daylight by one year to 1 January 2031, and removed the veranda requirement for refurbished and new member free-range systems.

Standards will not change further

Now, announcing the delay to the standards’ introduction, Kelly Grellier, interim chief operations officer at RSPCA Assured, said: “The standards will not be undergoing any further amendments.

“However, this additional grace period will allow us time to fully honour the commitments we made to our members and the wider industry during our meeting on 22 January – and find a way to move forward positively and together.

“We firmly believe the new RSPCA welfare standards for laying hens will help deliver significant improvements to the lives of hens.

“However, we recognise the importance of taking the appropriate time to listen to our members and the industry so we can provide additional support and help them achieve these challenging standards.”

Members can continue to use the current version of the standards, published in 2017, until 1 August 2024.