In a major step forward for animal rights in France, more laying hens look set to be liberated from their cages after Metro France, one of the country's biggest wholesalers, says it will stop selling eggs from caged birds by 2025.
The company is following in the steps of other large companies including Carrefour, who last month announced that by 2020 their own-brand eggs will no longer come from caged birds, and that by 2025 the ban will include all eggs sold in Carrefour.
Battery cages were banned in 2012 but so-called enriched cages as small as 30x30x30cms are still authorised. But public opinion is leading the way and animal rights charity L214 notes that Aldi, Lidl, Colruyt, the Schiever Group, Monoprix, and Système U (SuperU's own brand) have already pledged to stop selling eggs from caged birds. France's three largest catering companies Sodexo, Compass and Elior have vowed to stop using them by 2025.
Telsha Arora from animal rights group Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) said that although the move to stop selling cage-laid eggs is good news, there is still more work to do. "This legislation only applies to flocks of over 350 laying hens, so farms with smaller flocks are still legally allowed to use batteries. The ban also does not apply to pullets, which can be kept in barren cages before they start laying eggs."
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She also noted that in many cases living conditions for un-caged birds (ie "barn reared" and "free range" hens) remain unacceptable, many hens living in such cramped conditions that they are routinely being de-beaked to prevent them killing each other.
According to figures from 2015, 56% of laying hens in the EU are kept in cages; 26% are in 'barns', 14% are 'free range; and 4% are organic. In the UK 42% of laying hens are in cages, but in France the figure is around 70%.
The next step, she says, is to lobby companies to follow the lead of Italian catering company Camst, and French caterers Compass, who have committed to go cage-free on both shell eggs and egg products by 2025, meaning even eggs used as ingredients in mayonnaise/cakes etc will be cage-free.