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Battery cages are a housing system used for various animal production methods, but primarily for egg-laying hens. The name arises from the arrangement of rows and columns of identical cages connected together, in a unit, as in an artillery battery. Although the term is usually applied to poultry farming, similar cage systems are used for other animals. Battery cages have generated controversy between advocates for animal welfare and industrial producers.

Battery cages in practice

Battery cages are the predominant form of housing for laying hens worldwide.[1][2][3] They reduce aggression and cannibalism among hens, but are barren, restrict movement, prevent many natural behaviours, and increase rates of osteoporosis.[3] As of 2014, approximately 95% of eggs in the US were produced in battery cages.[4] In the UK, statistics from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) indicate that 50% of eggs produced in the UK throughout 2010 were from cages (45% from free-range, 5% from barns).[5]

The EU ban on caged hens

The European Union Council Directive 1999/74/EC[6] banned conventional battery cages in the EU from January 2012 for welfare reasons. This has led to a significant decrease in the number of eggs from battery cages in the [1][2][3] They reduce aggression and cannibalism among hens, but are barren, restrict movement, prevent many natural behaviours, and increase rates of osteoporosis.[3] As of 2014, approximately 95% of eggs in the US were produced in battery cages.[4] In the UK, statistics from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) indicate that 50% of eggs produced in the UK throughout 2010 were from cages (45% from free-range, 5% from barns).[5]

The EU ban on caged hens

The European Union Council Directive 1999/74/EC[6] banned conventional battery cages in the EU from January 2012 for welfare reasons. This has led to a significant decrease in the number of eggs from battery cages in the EU.[7][8] The 2012 battery cage ban was publicised as heralding an end to caged hens throughout Europe, but it created a widely held misconception that all laying hens in the UK are now either free range or barn birds. That is not the case; although battery cages are illegal, farmers have skirted the ban by providing slightly bigger cages with "enrichment" such as perches. The hens in these conditions are now called "ex-cage colony hens".[9]

Other examples of caged animals

Battery cages also used for mink, rabbit, chinchilla and fox in fur farming, and most recently for the Asian palm civet for kopi luwak production of coffee.