8 Apr 2010

Time for cage-free eggs

ChickensBefore Easter a campaign was launched to get more companies and Councils to only use cage-free eggs. Like other local councillors I received a couple of emails urging Stroud District to take action.

Anyway this is an issue I have raised before so I hugely welcome this campaign. Two years ago the European Commission, was under huge pressures from industry to delay a ban on conventional battery cages for laying hens due to come into force in 2012. It looked as if they were caving in but a huge campaign was mounted by many groups and we won - the delay didn't happen. See my press release here about that.

Anyway back to the current campaign - here is some of what the email to me said: "As a local resident, I am writing to ask Stroud District Council (Over Stroud) to commit to sourcing cage-free eggs (from barn or free-range systems) for all catering provided by the council, including local services such as social services, schools and care homes. The House of Commons, London's City Hall and over 60 local authorities already have a policy of sourcing only barn or free-range eggs in their catering facilities. They have recognised it is important to support cage-free farming systems rather than battery farming. Below are six good reasons for Stroud District Council (Over Stroud) to move to cage-free eggs:

1. Animal welfare - caged hens suffer greatly in their short lives. They are unable to carry out important natural behaviours such as foraging and dustbathing, or even flapping their wings.
2. Public opinion - animal welfare is important to the British public. More and more shoppers are switching to higher welfare eggs. Consumers see cage-free eggs as better quality, tastier and more natural than eggs from caged hens.
3. Support government policy - barren battery cages are prohibited throughout the EU from 2012 and the UK government is encouraging public bodies to move away from conventional battery eggs and switch to cage-free eggs.
4. Support sustainable farming - less intensive farming systems are not just better for animal wellbeing - they can also be better for the environment and farmers.
5. It doesn't cost the earth - although prices may vary, it costs only around 1.7p more to produce an egg in a cage-free system than a caged system.
6. To win a Good Egg Award - a Good Egg Award from Compassion in World Farming is an opportunity to benefit from partnering with a well-respected charity and to promote leading animal welfare policies to the public.

I would greatly appreciate it if you could consider the issues I have raised. I firmly believe that it is inhumane and unnecessary to keep hens in battery cages. I expect my council to spend its budget in a way that supports and encourages ethical and sustainable practices.

Well I will forgive them for getting our ward name wrong - it is now Randwick, Whiteshill and Ruscombe ward rather than 'Over Stroud' (see here)! My response has been to thank campaigners as this opens an opportunity to add pressure and show that people do care what Councils do. I have already sent an email asking the Council Leader what measures we can take in Stroud District. Having said that, our District Councils role is small compared to County Council's who have responsibilities with schools etc and there are also procurement issues. However none of these should be a block to sourcing cage-free eggs. Indeed this campaign has shown it is entirely possible for Councils to make that move.

It is also now something they surely must sign after the new Animal Welfare Charter that has been signed at the last Cabinet and was again in the local press today?

UK Green MEP Awards ‘Good Eggs’ At Ceremony In European ParliamentAlso see Green party leader, Caroline Lucas,who presented the Good Egg Awards a couple of years ago here.

Let's hope my next blog on this will have some good news.

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