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May 16, 2011

HSI Canada Calls on the Egg Farmers of Canada to Promote Animal Welfare

Humane Society International/Canada

MONTREAL—Humane Society International/Canada is calling on the Egg Farmers of Canada to improve the welfare of Canada’s 26 million laying hens. HSI Canada is encouraged by the EFC’S creation of an Academic Chair of Poultry Welfare, but urges the Chair to rethink the use of cage confinement in Canada and cautions against supporting the status quo for chickens.

Scientific studies have shown repeatedly and beyond any doubt that hens suffer in cages, said Sayara Thurston, campaigner for HSI Canada. If the Egg Farmers of Canada wish to be proactive on this front, then they must work with all Canadian egg producers to move to cage-free production systems, rather than investing hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce science that already exists.

Virtually all of Canada’s 26 million laying hens spend most of their lives inside small wire cages known as "battery cages." As many as seven hens are confined in cages roughly the size of a file cabinet drawer. Canada’s battery barns hold thousands of these cages, each farm confining an average of more than 17,000 birds. Abundant scientific evidence exists on the welfare problems presented by battery cages and colony cages. Both types of cages keep hens too closely confined to allow them to express natural behaviours such as uninhibited wing flapping, pecking at the ground, and perching at a high level. As a result, hens suffer extensively.

A move to cage-free housing for laying hens would keep Canada from falling behind a worldwide trend in animal welfare. As of next year, the 27 nations of the European Union will ban the use of barren battery cages for laying hens. Several U.S. states are also phasing out the use of battery cages, and companies such as Burger King, Subway, Kraft Foods, Hellman’s Mayonnaise and Wal-Mart are making a difference by choosing to use cage-free eggs.

HSI Canada calls on the Egg Farmers of Canada and the Canadian government to phase out the use of battery cage housing, and assist farmers in transitioning to higher welfare production methods such as free run or free range housing. A 2010 Harris/Decima poll showed that the majority of Canadian consumers oppose the use of battery cages for laying hens.

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Humane Society International/Canada is a leading force for animal protection, representing tens of thousands of members and constituents across the country. HSI/Canada has active programs in companion animals, wildlife and habitat protection, marine mammal preservation and farm animal welfare. HSI/Canada is proud to be a part of Humane Society International — one of the largest animal protection organizations in the world, with more than eleven million members and constituents globally — on the web at hsicanada.ca.

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