Farm Animal Sanctuary, Ireland
Joy, a rescued enriched battery cage hen
Battery cages were supposedly banned in the European Union in January 20122. Yet, the EU Directive merely banned barren battery cages, and replaced them with enriched or furnished battery cages. If one believes, as I do, that the lives of hens matter, then the effects of this welfare measure on their quality of life, individually and collectively, should be carefully evaluated. After all, there are six and a half billion egg laying hens in the world today, the vast majority of them still living in battery cages.
Market trends predict that the demand for eggs will rise as the population continues to grow. Over half of this demand is currently met by only five countries (China, the United States, India, Japan and Mexico)3 that confine almost all the hens they exploit in caged systems.
In the United States alone 95% of laying hens are confined in barren battery cages. If the lives of hens in Europe are significantly better since the ban on barren cages, and if their suffering has been ameliorated by the introduction of new enriched battery cages, then the implications for hens worldwide should be considered by looking, like Juliet, beyond the labels of confinement at the reality of the subjective experience of the hens who are forced to meet our demand for their eggs.
Following extensive scrutiny of the situation for egg laying hens in Europe, I argue that, like Julietís rose, a cage by any other name is still a cage. Exploitation, regardless of the language with which it is represented, is still exploitation.
Furthermore, the evidence shows that the reality for each individual hen is that she lives in an extant, embodied prison, regardless of which cage she lives in, or whether or not she is caged, by virtue of being bred to produce eggs for human consumption.
See entire 24-page report - A Report on the EU Directive Banning Battery Cages for Egg Laying Hens Sandra Higgins, BSc (Hons) Psych, MSc Couns Psych, Director, Eden Farm Animal Sanctuary, Ireland - PDF