Canada’s battery cage phase-out officially begins

OTTAWA, March 27, 2017 -Barren battery cages for Canada’s egg-laying hens will be a thing of the past thanks to the tenacity of negotiators from the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (CFHS). This phase-out is part of a new NFACC code for the care and handling of Canada’s laying hens, which lays out the most rigorous care standards for egg-laying hens in North America.

This code represents the most significant change we’ve ever seen in Canada’s egg industry. Currently, 90% of egg-laying hens in Canada live in cramped, barren battery cages. As of April 1, 2017, no new barren battery cages will be built in Canada, which is an important first step in transitioning the country’s egg farms to more humane practices.

“The phase-out of barren battery cages is a huge win for Canada’s hens,” says Barbara Cartwright, CEO of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies. “The timeline is much longer than we consider acceptable, but it doesn’t diminish how meaningful a change this is in the long-term.”

Transitioning away from barren battery cages is the right thing to do. This shift puts egg farmers on the right side of animal welfare science, which shows that hens experience extreme stress and frustration when they are unable to express the behaviours that come naturally to them, like dust-bathing and foraging. Cramped cages also prevent hens from walking or even spreading their wings for their entire lives.

This new code also introduces world-leading cage-free standards in response to public concern about the lack of guidelines for how cage-free systems operate in Canada.

“Unregulated, cage-free housing can be just as problematic as barren battery cages, with no enrichment for the hens and much more aggression and stress,” says Geoff Urton, a key negotiator for CFHS on the Laying Hen Code Development Committee. “The new standards in this code will ensure that the term cage-free is as progressive as it sounds.

“These changes mean that hens in Canada will have more space, the ability to stand up fully in all forms of housing and the chance to express natural behaviours,” says Barb Cartwright, CEO of CFHS.

The biggest strengths of this new code are:

  • No new barren battery cages will be built as of April 1, 2017
  • Barren battery cages in Canada are being phased out within the next 15 years
  • The introduction of stringent cage-free standards that far surpass the U.S.

It’s expected that 50% of Canada’s hens will be transitioned to enriched cages or cage-free barns within the next 8 years, and between 85-100% will be transitioned within 15 years.

This code ensures that hens live better lives, including the following:

  • Perch space
  • Feed and water space
  • Nest boxes
  • Good quality litter
  • Appropriate and timely care for sick and injured birds
  • Enrichments in all housing systems
  • More space in all housing systems

The final version of the code of practice for egg-laying hens was released today at 7am EDT. As the only animal welfare organization sitting on the Code Development Committee, CFHS is available to comment on the pros and cons of the code and what these changes will mean for Canada’s hens.

For further information, contact:
Luna Allison
Communications and Marketing Manager
Canadian Federation of Humane Societies
(613) 224-8072 ext. 12