A new welfare code laying hens and pullets has been published as part of a programme of reforms to enhance the welfare of British animals.

The statutory guidance code is the second of the 10 farm animal welfare codes to be updated with new codes for other livestock species also planned.

The new code of practice for the welfare of broilers came into force in March 2018.

Strengthened statutory guidance code has been updated to reflect the very latest advice from vets and animal husbandry developments, as part of a programme of reforms to safeguard and enhance the welfare of animals.

Priority areas

Flock keepers are now expected to provide a more enriched environment for all laying hens to enable them to display more of their natural behaviours – such as foraging.

The new code of practice addresses what it deems to be “priority laying hen welfare issues” – such as the need to reduce injurious pecking, so as to stop the need to beak trim as soon as reasonably possible.

It recommends producers should draw up their own action plans for their units to reduce injurious pecking.

It also includes new sections, based on the latest scientific, veterinary and husbandry advice, on the welfare of pullets, skeletal health, welfare outcome assessments, biosecurity and contingency planning.

Minister for Animal Welfare, Lord Gardiner, said: “We have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world and are going further in a number of areas, including our plans to raise maximum sentences for animal cruelty to five years and making CCTV mandatory in abattoirs.

“This code was carefully consulted on with industry experts, and uses the most recent scientific and veterinary advice to ensure this clear guidance provides the best advice to owners and keepers to help ensure the high welfare standards of their animals.”

Welfare codes aren’t law, but if animal keepers do not follow them they can be used as evidence in court if there is a prosecution for causing unnecessary suffering to livestock or poultry.

The codes will be used by enforcement bodies including Animal and Plant Health Agency inspectors and local authorities when investigating allegations of poor welfare to look at whether animal welfare standards are being met.

The full code is available to read online.