The Fellowship of Life
a Christian-based vegetarian group founded in 1973


God's creatures without life in wire cages

by Bruce Kent

Not long ago I signed a petition to go to the prime minister opposing the battery cage system of keeping egg laying chickens. Who wouldn't? We have no right to eat eggs if the only way of getting hold of them is to shove some of God's creatures into wire boxes for their lives and to deny them open air and free movement. The poor wretched chickens can't even stretch their wings. I hope the new Vatican catechism will put battery egg production right into the mortal sin category.

But that's by the way. Some weeks after signing the petition I got a letter from MAFF (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food) on behalf of the prime minister. No doubt every other anti-battery petition signatory got the same letter as well. It is a gem. The script writers for Yes Minister must have been let loose on it.

The gist is that the problem is a complicated one, other ways of keeping chickens also have their risks, the European Community is really to blame, etcetera, etcetera. MAFF agreed that the Agriculture Committee of the House of Commons wanted a minimum area for adult birds of not less than 750 (less than one foot square) but that "the most that could be achieved was 450" Try that on your ruler - it's about eight and a half inches square!

But the real gem is at the end. MAFF must have been sent down the road to the MOD to pick up a few lines in propaganda. "A unilateral ban on battery cages in this country would do nothing to help the welfare of battery hens in the rest of the community. . ."

Really? Has anyone asked British hens how they feel about that? Can we expect cautious statements from the hierarchy on the value of multilateral battery negotiations and the danger of unilateral action? Would the battery balance which has kept the peace for 40 years be upset? Or am I getting my issues confused? I hope not. Putting a chicken in a box of 450 is a sin whoever else does it anywhere and someone ought to say so.

From the Catholic Herald dated 27th July, 1990.

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