James Cartlidge – 2015 Parliamentary Question to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The below Parliamentary question was asked by James Cartlidge on 2015-11-24.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what her policy is on beak trimming of laying hens.

George Eustice

Since 2010, the use of a hot blade to routinely beak trim laying hens has been banned in the UK. In order to prevent injurious feather pecking, use of infra-red technology only is permitted on day old chicks. The Government established the Beak Trimming Action Group (BTAG), comprising representatives from industry, welfare groups, retailers, Defra, scientific and veterinary professions to look at ways birds might be managed so that even infra-red beak trimming would no longer be necessary. Having reviewed all the available evidence, BTAG has now submitted its recommendations, and the report will be placed in the House Library. I have accepted all of the Group’s recommendations.

The Group advised that the risks of introducing a ban on infra-red beak trimming are too great. It could result in outbreaks of severe feather pecking and having to employ emergency beak trimming using the hot blade method, which is a far worse outcome from an animal welfare perspective. However, the BTAG report also identified improved management techniques that could reduce feather pecking. The Government expects to see these techniques introduced across the laying hen sector.