THE Scottish government has launched a consultation which could see a ban on enriched colony egg production introduced in the country.

Its preference is a ban on the new installation of cages from 2030 followed by a ban on keeping birds in enriched cages from 2034.

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It would also ban barren battery cages for pullets, breeder layers and layer hen units with fewer than 350 birds.

Defra has said it does not have similar plans in England.

There are currently just over one million hens in cage units in Scotland, which his 17% of the total according to Scottish government figures.

Welfare

Launching the consultation, Scots agriculture minister Jim Fairlie, said: “As we committed to in our Programme for Governments, we want to improve the welfare of laying hens to ensure their confinement does not negatively impact their normal behaviours.

“Significant progress has already been made in recognising the importance of animal welfare – both in government policies and the demand from the public in the choice they make when shopping.

“If implemented, the ban would be another example of Scotland leading the way in improving the welfare of animals by being the first UK nation to ban the practice.”

Serious concerns

The British Egg Industry Council said it had “serious concerns” about the proposal.

“In addition to consumers, producers in Scotland who export to the rest of the UK will also be disadvantaged by the proposed changes.

“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 of the UK, potentially with significantly lower welfare standards.

Trade

“There are also trade deals in place with countries that still use battery (‘barren’) cage systems, illegal in the UK since 2012.

“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.”