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Date: 03 Mar 2021

16 million hens are still kept in cages in the UK which Brits say is “unacceptable”

16 million hens are still kept in cages in the UK which Brits say is “unacceptable”

According to a new poll by RSPCA Assured to mark Pancake Day

Friday 25 February 2022

A new poll to mark Pancake Day, when egg consumption is traditionally high, has revealed that the vast majority (85%) of people think it’s unacceptable for hens to be kept in cages, and 65% said they wouldn’t knowingly eat eggs from caged hens.

The survey, carried out by RSPCA Assured - the RSPCA’s ethical food label and farm assurance scheme – also revealed that many Brits are ‘egg-norant’ when it comes to how hens are kept, with 21% thinking hens are no longer kept in cages in the UK and a further 19% not knowing whether they are or not.

But the stark reality is that around 16 million hens are still kept in cages, which accounts for a shocking 35% of UK egg production*. These cages restrict their ability to move around, stay active and easily perform natural behaviours, like dustbathing, that help keep them fit and healthy. Dr Kate Norman, RSPCA farm animal scientist, explains:

“Many people think cages are a thing of the past but they couldn’t be more wrong. Whilst the old battery cage was banned in Europe in 2012, they were replaced by a new type of cage called a ‘colony’ or ‘enriched caged’. But, in reality, they are not much better and only give each hen about as much space as the size of a large pancake.

“Most boxes of eggs sold in supermarkets are now cage-free but not all of them are, so it’s still really important that shoppers read the label to check the method of production. But by far the biggest problem is that caged eggs are often hidden in restaurant food, ready meals and in ingredients used in cakes, quiches and pies and most people probably don’t have a clue.”

The RSPCA has long been campaigning for an end to cages and welcomes the commitments by the Governments in Wales and England to review the use of cages during this parliamentary session. Beatrice’s Bill, which seeks to introduce a cage ban in England, will be discussed at the House of Commons next month (March) but as a Private Members’ Bill stands little chance of success. Dr Norman concludes:

“We are pleased that the issue is going to be discussed and urge the Government to use Beatrice’s Bill as a mechanism to take action now to end this archaic practice. No one wants hens to be farmed in cages and it’s totally unacceptable that it is still happening in 2022.” 

In response to concerns about hens in cages, RSPCA Assured has launched a new TV and social media advertising campaign urging people to put hen welfare first this Pancake Day by only buying barn, free-range and organic eggs, ideally carrying the RSPCA Assured label.

RSPCA Assured labelled eggs never come from caged hens. They come from farms inspected by specially-trained assessors, to almost 400 mandatory RSPCA welfare standards. Find out more about life on an RSPCA Assured certified laying hen farm here.





Notes to editors:

A survey of 1,000 UK adults was carried out via Survey Monkey Audience on Tuesday 15 February 2022. Information on how respondents are recruited to SurveyMonkey is available here:

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