Client: Compassion in World Farming
Campaign: European ban on battery hens
Timescale: March 1998 - January 1999
Budget: Not available
Battery hens can be kept in a space as small as 450 cm2, according to
current laws - less than half the size of this page. Studies show that
such conditions, as well as being cruel, are detrimental to the health
of the hens who often suffer from brittle and broken bones and feather
Along with other animal rights organisations, pressure group Compassion
in World Farming (CIWF) has been lobbying for 30 years to ban battery
hen farming, while those involved in intensive farming have lobbied
heavily against any changes being made, saying the economic consequences
would be disastrous.
To achieve a Europe-wide ban on battery-hen farming.
The current campaign began in March 1998 when an EC report was published
advising that the minimum amount of space allowed for each hen should be
increased to 800 cm2.
Disappointed that a full ban was not recommended, yet supportive of any
move in the right direction, the CIWF stepped up its lobbying. The
UK-based group has branches in France and Ireland and offices in Italy
and the Netherlands all of which worked to lobby their own MEPs. There
is also a coalition of animal welfare groups throughout Europe which
co-operated with the CIWF, assisting with mailouts to members.
Face-to-face meetings were organised with individual MEPs, who were
briefed and presented with a summary of scientific research. A paper was
prepared called ’The industry’s arguments refuted’ which countered
arguments such as ’the cost of banning battery cages would be ruinous’.
The campaign has also used videos to get the message across - these are
produced by CIWF in each country.
Knowing that politicians would take the issue far more seriously if the
public put pressure on them, CIWF also took its message to the
with a campaign mascot ’Hetty the Hen’ - a larger-than-life battery hen,
debeaked and lacking feathers. Hetty has appeared all over Europe,
including a photocall in London with Savoy chef Anton Edelmann. The
object being to get across the message that battery cages are cruel, but
there is something the public can do about it.
In the UK, the campaign has had the support of various other animal
welfare charities such as RSPCA, and its not-for-profit subsidiary
Freedom Foods, which promotes cruelty-free foods.
In November 1998, MEPs on the agriculture committee accepted the EC
proposal which was then set to go to a plenary session, where all MEPs
A group from CIWF attended the final meeting in Strasbourg before the
vote. An exhibition was set up in the parliament buildings, illustrating
the cruelty of battery cages and the benefits of free range farming.
In the full vote on 28 January, the parliament rejected the EC proposal
for an increase in the size of battery cages. Instead, MEPs called for a
full ban - despite the fact that none of the major political groupings
supported the ban on battery cages. When it came to the vote, MEPs came
out overwhelmingly in favour of the ban, with 228 for and 152
Now the decision will go before the Council of Agriculture
CIWF will continue to lobby throughout Europe, targeting the various
agriculture ministers, especially those in Italy, France and
A hard-fought and emotional campaign has paid off for animal welfare
campaigners and there is optimism that the Council of Agriculture
Ministers will not go against the vote of the parliament. But there is
concern that member countries will be flooded with cheap battery egg
imports from outside Europe once the ban comes into place in 2009. So
without the World Trade Organisation changing its attitude towards trade
bans on ethical grounds, the EU is unlikely to prevent this situation.