Manitoba Takes Stand on Future of Cages
Layer cages – the current industry standard for egg layers – are on the
way out in Manitoba. As of January 1, 2018, all egg farmers building new barns will
have to install enriched cages in line with the “Five Freedoms” being
promoted by animal rights groups.
March 17, 2010 – Layer cages – the current industry standard for egg layers – are on the way out in Manitoba. As of January 1, 2018, all egg farmers in the province who are building new barns or retrofitting existing barns will have to install enriched cages in line with the “Five Freedoms” being promoted by animal rights groups seeking to improve the lives of farm animals. These “Freedoms” include freedom from hunger or thirst, from discomfort, from pain, injury or disease, the freedom to express normal behaviour and freedom from fear and distress.
The enriched cages provide laying hens with more space to nest, roost and scratch. Three producers who are new to the industry are required to include the enriched cages when they build their new barns.
“It was a very difficult decision,” Kurt Siemens, MEF’s former chair, noted. “We are aware that enriched cages will increase the cost of building new barns and we are looking for ways to help farmers recover those costs.”
Egg farmer Tim Ruby expressed the sentiments of many attending the Manitoba Egg Farmers annual meeting when he said that egg farmers already take good care of their hens because it is the right thing to do as well as the right thing to do economically. “I don’t see why this has to be legislated,” he said.
Siemens noted that the science supports enriched cages and Penny Kelly, the MEF’s general manager, pointed out that the board’s move was an effort in part to stay a step ahead of animal rights activists. While Ruby noted that farmers can never satisfy animal rights activists, Kelly countered that the board is hopeful that the “enriched cages” decision will take Manitoba egg farmers off animal rights’ groups’ radar screen.
“We say we care about our hens,” Kelly added. “The Five Freedoms are one way to show it. The Five Freedoms have become the standard in Europe.”
“We don’t want government or retailers telling us what to do,” Siemens said. “That is why we are taking action on our own. We want to be able to control our own destiny.”
Manitoba becomes the first province to require enriched cages, he noted. “We didn’t consult with other provinces,” he said. “But we are receiving a lot of support for this from across the country.”
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