Thank you to everyone who has emailed me recently to say that they have signed the parliamentary petition to ‘End the Cage Age’, calling for a ban on all caged farming.
The UK has some of the highest standards of animal welfare in the world. There is comprehensive legislation to uphold these standards, as well as guidance on how best to protect the welfare of specific animals living on farms, such as hens, pigs and cattle. The Government has already banned cages or close confinement systems where there is clear scientific evidence that they are detrimental to animal health and welfare.
The new statutory Code of Practice for the Welfare of Laying Hens and Pullets came into force in August 2018. The Code provides improved and up-to-date guidance on welfare legislation and reflects the latest scientific and veterinary advice. I am also aware that all major supermarkets have said they will stop selling eggs from hens kept in enriched cages by 2025.
In relation to pig welfare, the aim is to get to a point where traditional farrowing crates are obsolete and where any new system protects the welfare of the sow, as well as her piglets. I understand that important steps have been made on the use of free farrowing systems, but more advances are needed before compulsory replacement of farrowing crates can be recommended.
I can assure you that the Government is committed to making the UK a world leader in the protection of animals as we leave the EU. For example, there are plans to increase maximum penalties for animal cruelty from six months' to five years' imprisonment, and statutory welfare codes are being updated. These codes strengthen guidance on how to meet the needs of livestock animals and enhance their welfare.