We have recently completed a public consultation exercise on whether to ban enriched cages for laying hens in England at the same time as conventional barren cages are banned in 2012. I am pleased that some 1,000 people responded to this consultation.
After a thorough consideration of the comments received and the available scientific and other evidence, I have concluded that as there is a lack of definitive evidence currently available there are insufficient grounds at present to justify a unilateral ban on enriched cages from 2012.
Because there are a range of issues to consider, not least the current stocking density set by the directive, I consider that a better approach would be to review the future of enriched cages on an EU basis, when the welfare of laying hens directive is next considered by the Agriculture Council in 2005.
By then it is hoped we will be in a stronger position to address some of the questions on the welfare concerns of enriched cages, as research programmes are completed. It is clear however, that it would be premature for producers to consider that existing cages could be adapted to meet the standards of enriched ones.