CAMPAIGNS: Bald bird beats battery barons - Euro Lobbyiing

Client: Compassion in World Farming

Client: Compassion in World Farming

PR Team:In-house

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

can vote.

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.

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