Animals farmed: EU cage-ban moves closer, magic of horse power and ‘egg-mageddon’

Animals farmed: EU cage-ban moves closer, magic of horse power and ‘egg-mageddon’

Animals farmed: EU cage-ban moves closer, magic of horse power and ‘egg-mageddon’

Welcome to our monthly roundup of the biggest issues in farming and food production, with must-read reports from around the web

Farmers protest in Toulouse in April against common agricultural policy reform negotiations.

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Last modified on Tue 13 Jul 2021 05.01 EDT

News from around the world

The European Commission has committed to table a proposal to phase out the use of cages in farming by the end of 2023, with the aim of enforcing the ban from 2027. It comes after the EU parliament passed a non-binding vote in favour of the ban last month. The RSPCA has urged UK ministers to follow suit, “to ensure we do not fall behind”.

Europe’s largest egg producer, Eurovo Group, has committed to phase out cages for laying hens on its Italian-owned farms by 2022.

A cage-free egg showcase farm and research centre, the first of its kind in Asia is being set up in Indonesia. And Nevada has passed a new law requiring that eggs sold in the state are from cage-free facilities.

In Massachusetts, lawmakers warned of a looming shortage of eggs, which they have dubbed “egg-mageddon”, ahead of the introduction of legislation mandating that all eggs sold in the state come from cage-free hens.

A ban on feed made of animal remains introduced during the BSE crisis is to be lifted in the EU to allow cheap pig protein to be fed to chickens. The practice was banned by the EU in 1994 as the full horrors of BSE, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, emerged. The disease was spread widely by farmers feeding cattle with the meat and bone meal of dead and infected animals. The lifting of the ban is seen as necessary to allow EU farmers to compete with countries exporting into the union.

Free-range laying hens inside a shed.

Lawmakers in Germany have voted against a ban on live exports to 17 countries outside the EU – including Egypt, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Iran, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Libya and Syria. The discount chain Aldi has agreed to raise animal welfare standards for the meat sold in its German supermarkets. In Italy, new legislation will require details on animal welfare to be displayed on the packaging of pork products.

Dairy company Arla Foods plans to build a new commercial dairy farm in northern Nigeria. The 200-hectare (500-acre), 400-cow farm will help meet the country’s demand for dairy products. Arla says Nigeria’s dairy sector is able to supply less than 10% of current demand.

Ireland plans to ban fur farming. There are three mink farms in the country, which between them rear more than 100,000 animals every year, with the fur sold to the fashion industry. The farms were forced to cull tens of thousands of the animals earlier this year due to concerns about a new coronavirus variant discovered on a Danish mink farm.

News from the UK

The UK’s new trade deal with Australia will undermine animal welfare standards, say farming unions. However, the environment secretary, George Eustice, said he expected supermarkets would not stock Australian meat produced to lower standards, despite the deal. New Zealand is reportedly the next target for a major trade agreement.

Boris Johnson and Australia's prime minister, Scott Morrison, in the garden of 10 Downing Street, London.

Marks & Spencer has pledged to stop selling unnaturally fast grown fresh chicken and to stock only higher-welfare birds. It comes as campaigners revealed that UK supermarkets are lagging behind other food industry sectors on chicken welfare. While the leading food service companies and two-thirds of leading restaurant chains have signed up to the Better Chicken Commitment, M&S and Waitrose are the only retailers to have adopted it.

Alan Cumming.

Actor Alan Cumming has called for meat and dairy to be taken off the menu at the Cop26 climate change summit in Glasgow this November, saying “animal agriculture contributes to many of the serious environmental problems the planet is facing”. The Cop24 summit in Poland three years ago was criticised for its meat-heavy menu, with campaigners claiming it could contribute more than 4,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases to the climate crisis.

From the Animals farmed series

A surge in pig and poultry farming in Northern Ireland has left the country struggling to dispose of its animal waste sustainably – and advisory bodies have told politicians that as much as 35% of animal waste may need to be exported to improve water and soil quality in the region.

UK pig farms’ increasing use of a class of antibiotics critically important for human health has prompted concerns about farming practices and efforts to reduce reliance on the drugs.

The growth of intensive chicken farming in the counties of Herefordshire, Shropshire and Powys has been a welcome boost to farm profitability across the region, but has fuelled controversy. The three neighbouring counties rear more than a quarter of the UK’s chickens, with campaigners dismayed at the apparent ease with which new chicken sheds are approved. Meanwhile, disease specialists say unchecked growth and the high density of poultry farms created perfect conditions for a devastating bird flu outbreak in Poland.

Insect protein in animal feed could replace 20% of the UK’s soya imports by 2050, according to a report by WWF and Tesco. Soya has become a key ingredient of animal feed – especially for pig and poultry farms – but rising demand for the crop has been linked to deforestation in South America.

Share your stories and feedback

Jean-Pierre Dupont weeds the vines with his draught horse at the L'Affut estate in Solonge, France

Thank you to everyone who has shared their views on the series so far. Responding to our report on the re-emergence of working horses in viticulture in mainland France and Corsica, Chris Wainwright, chief executive of charity Brooke, writes:

“There’s estimated to be over 100 million horses, donkeys and mules working around the world today … Working horses, donkeys and mules do indeed have a ‘magical power’ and it’s important their vital contribution to social and economic development is properly recognised. This means protecting their welfare so, just like the communities that depend on them, they also have a life worth living.”

To air your views, or share your experiences and stories from inside the farming industry, please contact us at: [email protected].

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