10 March 2023
In his own words, Flemish Animal Welfare Minister Ben Weyts said, “It is our damned duty to avoid animal suffering”. With new investigative footage, GAIA is calling on the Minister to turn his words into actions and ban enriched cages in Flanders for more than 3,000,000 laying hens currently confined to the space of an A4 piece of paper.
There are currently more than 3 million laying hens in cages in Flanders. The hens are locked up there for the duration of their lives – 13 months – in which time they have to produce as many eggs as possible.
Footage released by GAIA from a laying hen farm in Sint-Gillis-Waas clearly demonstrates the problem of caged hens. Countless chickens are housed in unhygienic metal grid cages stacked on top of each other, too restricted to spread their wings properly.
The sanitary condition of the farm is deplorable and the metal grids cause a lot of injuries and suffering. The footage shows that the plumage of many chickens is damaged, and many chickens do not survive – carcasses are seen everywhere.
Wallonia, the French-speaking region of southern Belgium, already banned cages for laying hens in 2018.
Almost three-quarters of Flemish people (72%) agree that keeping chickens in cages should be banned, according to a 2022 study by Ipsos.
At the end of February, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published their opinions on the welfare of laying hens and broilers. They clearly indicated that poultry should not be kept in cages and advise better living conditions, such as aviaries with covered outdoor areas or “winter gardens”, which are already used in some farms in Flanders.
Chickens are welfare-sensitive animals and deserve a better life, Mr. Minister. You know that yourself and it is your damned duty to avoid avoidable animal suffering, as you so aptly put it. We count on you to really get to work on this now, to take your role as Animal Minister to heart and to abolish the cages, starting with all cages for laying hens.
Ann De Greef, Director of GAIA
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