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The facts about battery cages

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  • RSPCA Australia
  • Monday, 1 May 2017

Have you joined our most recent supporter action?

It’s been less than two weeks since we launched the latest stage of our ongoing campaign to end the battery cage.

In that time, thousands upon thousands of you have written to egg producers who are still using battery cages as well as producing cage-free eggs.  You’ve joined us in positively encouraging them to phase out battery cages for good.


As a result of your efforts, some battery cage producers are actively blocking our emails.

That’s right – they’re so worried about what you have to say, and are so short on answers to your concerns, some companies are trying to avoid receiving your emails at all.

If you’ve received a bounce-back to your messages, let us know.

As a consumer, your opinion counts. We can help you make sure your voice heard!

If you are ‘lucky’ enough to receive a response, you might have been gobsmacked by the most common arguments the egg industry uses to justify battery cages.

We’ve previously outlined all the ways in which battery cages are cruel. And yet, the egg industry keeps coming up with the same, tired, old (and incorrect) excuses.

Just in case you need some further evidence and responses to these arguments, we’ve got all the facts right here:

·         Cage-free eggs don’t cost much more

It will cost you just $22 a year to switch to cage-free eggs, and many brands of cage-free products are now cheaper than those made with battery cage eggs.

·         Cage-free eggs are just as safe

The greatest food safety risks come from storage and handling – not the production method.

In fact, many scientific studies have shown confining hens to battery cages can actually increase the risk of salmonella.

·         Cage-free eggs are just as nutritious     

There’s no nutritional difference between cage and cage-free eggs (though some people think cage-free eggs taste better).

·         We don’t need battery cages to reduce mortality

There’s more to good welfare than just survival, and we don’t need to deprive hens of normal movement and behaviours to reduce mortality. 

Battery caged hens may live, but in very poor conditions that cause them great suffering; whereas some housing systems that allow hens to behave normally actually have lower mortality than battery cages.

Hens in cage-free systems can enjoy their lives without the suffering and frustration caused by battery cages.

·         Battery cages cause stress and frustration

Hens in battery cages suffer high levels of stress and frustration because they’re unable to perform simple natural behaviours like walking, nesting, perching, stretching their wings, scratching the ground, and foraging.

Hens suffer in battery cages where they can’t perform these behaviours because their natural instinct to nest, perch, dust bathe and forage is so very strong.

·         We don’t need battery cages to control disease

Reducing the risk of disease does not mean that hens should be restricted from behaving normally. Other housing systems can maintain the low risk of disease while also allowing hens to behave naturally.

Caged hens have a lower risk of infectious disease because they’re held off the ground in wire cages and don’t have the opportunity to interact with many other hens.

Hens in battery cages do, however, suffer high levels of chronic diseases, such as bone disease (osteoporosis) and a fatal fatty liver condition, which is brought about by stress and lack of movement.

·         We don’t need battery cages to prevent pecking and cannibalism

Feather pecking and cannibalism are serious risks in all housing systems, including where hens are crammed together in battery cages.

There’s no evidence cage-free hens are more prone to feather pecking than caged hens – locking hens in small cages just limits their contact with other hens.

We can’t justify locking hens in barren battery cages to limit the risk of feather-pecking when the battery cages themselves cause so much suffering.  Other housing systems maintain the low risk of feather-pecking while also allowing hens to behave normally.

·         We don’t need battery cages to protect hens from predators

There are many, many examples of good cage-free systems (both indoor and outdoor) that provide adequate protection from predators.

We can’t justify condemning hens to suffer in barren battery cages for their entire lives, under the guide of protecting them from predators.

Battery cages have no benefits over alternative housing systems that meet the needs of hens, and no benefits that aren’t also achieved by a well-managed cage-free system.

Larger, ‘enriched’ or ‘furnished’ cages – such as those used overseas – do have some benefits. But our industry has chosen instead to continue using small, barren battery cages, which cause chronic suffering for layer hens.

What battery cages can’t do, is meet the welfare needs of hens; and the science absolutely agrees battery cages are indefensible from a welfare point of view.


But what eggs SHOULD you buy, then?

Many of our supporters, who don’t wish to buy from egg brands that also use battery cages, are asking us which brands they should be purchasing.

We can certainly tell you which brands to avoid, but when it come to the brands you should purchase, unfortunately it’s not that simple.

As Australia’s leading animal welfare organisation, we can’t risk recommending a brand unless we know for certain that it’s a well-run, entirely cage-free system.

So, the brands we can truly recommend are those approved under our RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme – because we visit and asses the farms regularly and we know how good the animal welfare standards are.

RSPCA Approved eggs are now nationally available - click here for a full list of RSPCA Approved eggs brands.

If you can’t find RSPCA Approved eggs when you need them, here’s some advice:

·         We always encourage consumer to buy the highest welfare you can afford.

·         Read the label carefully to understand more about the company behind the brand, and see if their name is linked to any battery cage eggs on the shelf as well. You could also research the company online.

·         You could also contact your regular brand by phone or email, and ask them outright if their company (or parent company) has any interests in battery cages.

·         Most brands that are fully cage free are very proud of their efforts, and will happily tell you about their system. If the brand is being cagey (pardon the pun) about the details, you’re probably right to be suspicious.


If you find out anything interesting, we’d love to hear from you!

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