Animal welfare campaigners celebrated victory on Monday after a Knesset committee approved new regulations that put an end to cages for laying hens.

The move will bring Israel into line with 18 other countries that have banned such caging.

Animals Now, the nonprofit that has led the campaign to ban cages since 2009, said the decision was “a huge victory for animals and the Israeli public”. He noted that research had found less salmonella in cage-free sheds.

Another NGO, Let the Animals Live, said that while chickens would have no quality of life until factory farming ended, it was right to celebrate the banning of some of the cruelest and cruelest practices. more outdated.

The new regulations also prohibit the practice of starving hens for 10 days to increase their egg production.

Referring to an old draft regulation that infuriated animal welfare campaigners by allowing ‘sections’ rather than cages, Agriculture Minister Oded Forer said removing cages was a priority for him since he became minister, and that the new regulations were “without sections and without other devious means of putting hens in cages in a confined space”.

Filthy conditions at an egg farm in northern Israel, where chickens live in cages on top of piles of their own droppings. (Screenshot)

Some 10 million hens lay eggs in Israel and around 90% of them currently live in cramped cages of a design banned by 39 other countries, according to Animals Now. Each hen takes up less space than a sheet of A4 paper, he says.

According to figures from the Poultry Industry Council, only 3.2% of hens in Israel are cage-free, compared to more than half in the European Union.

Figures from the Ministry of Agriculture indicate that 93% of poultry houses do not meet the hygiene or animal welfare requirements of the veterinary services.

The new regulations ban cages in any new chicken coops, with immediate effect, and provide for the phasing out of existing cages until 2038 – a period decried as unnecessarily long by rights campaigners. Until then, the cages should be made less crowded.

Despite the long waiting period, many cages are expected to go to waste well before the deadline, as part of an agricultural reform through which farmers will be able to benefit from financial support to build new sheds.

Cageless chicken coops that will be introduced in Israel. (Courtesy of Animals Now)

Coops without cages are still full of birds, but allow the hens to roam and practice some of their natural habits, such as pecking at the ground, taking dust baths to eliminate parasites, flapping their wings and laying eggs in the air. darkness. , private space, from which the eggs are removed automatically.

As Animals Now pointed out, however, they never see a rooster or chicks. Male chicks are culled immediately after hatching as they have no economic value.

Laying hens have part of their beaks removed and sent to the slaughterhouse when their egg production decreases as well as their monetary value.

Animals Now pledged to continue its campaign to ensure eggs imported from overseas would also come from non-caged hens.

A year ago, the European Commission announced that it intended to introduce a bill next year to ban all forms of cattle caging, calf pens and crates low for pregnant and lactating sows to cages for ducks and rabbits.

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