Scientific and practical evidence shows that the UK ban on debeaking of laying hens should go ahead. That’s the message we delivered to the UK Minister responsible for this area following the publication of our new report demonstrating that this mutilation is not only painful but also unnecessary.
Debeaking (or ‘beak-trimming’ as it is often referred) involves removing a chunk of the bird’s beak with a red-hot blade or a laser beam. It is a serious mutilation used to control injurious pecking caused by factors such as inappropriate husbandry systems, management or strain of hen.
In support of the UK ban on debeaking, due to be implemented from 2011, Compassion released a new report, ‘Controlling feather pecking and cannibalism in laying hens without beak trimming.’ It shows that the mutilation causes suffering to the birds, whether by using a hot-blade, or the new ‘innovation’ of infra-red. It also shows that, by keeping the right breed under the right conditions, debeaking is unnecessary.
Our report describes the positive experiences in Sweden, Norway, Finland and Switzerland, where debeaking is already banned. It shows that getting the living conditions right for hens, giving them balanced food and using breeds of bird that are not prone to pecking at each other, are important in overcoming problems of injurious pecking amongst the birds. In Austria, we found that the major farm certification schemes themselves don’t allow hens to be debeaked. Austria, a welfare-friendly country that keeps the majority of its hens in non-cage systems, has now reached the point where debeaking is virtually absent and feather pecking not generally considered a problem, thanks to good, well managed ways of farming.
The report is the latest step in our campaign to counter those undermining the ban, not least the Government’s own welfare advisory body, the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC). FAWC’s recent advice was that the ban, due to be implemented in 2011, should be postponed indefinitely. The word they put to it was that a new implementation date itself should not be “reviewed” until 2015. In other words, a new date for the ban would not even be considered possibly until the second term of what could be a new government. Or as I put it in a recent post, that the ban would be kicked into the long grass. The loser? The hens of course.
In our meeting with the Animal Welfare Minister, Jim Fitzpatrick, we pressed home the message that the Government should go ahead and ban debeaking rather than effectively scrap it through an indefinite postponement. Thank you so much to all of you that have taken part in our campaign so. Nearly 4,000 supporters so far have taken part in our campaign action. We do need to keep up the pressure. Your help, as ever, is be invaluable. Do please help us to get more people behind our campaign. Through our combined efforts, we can take further steps toward keeping the ban and consigning debeaking to the history books in the UK.