The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) Assured has extended the pause for the start date of its new laying hen welfare standards for a total of nine months.

RSPCA Assured said this was to allow more time to provide tailored support for its members.

This means members can continue to use the current version of the standards, published in 2017, until February 1, 2025.

The extended pause follows RSPCA Assured’s original announcement in March this year, that it would be pausing the implementation of the standards for three months (from May 2024 to August 2024), in response to member and industry feedback.

Interim chief operations officer at RSPCA Assured, Kelly Grellier, said: “Our members are fundamental in helping us improve hen welfare.

“Therefore, ensuring we listen to them and provide proper support to help them meet the new standards is our top priority.

“To do this effectively, we have to be flexible. Extending the current pause until 2025 will give us more time to talk to more members and offer more support tailored to their specific needs.”

Over the coming months, the RSPCA said it and and RSPCA Assured will be offering in person meetings to their members.

The aim of these will be to fully understand any challenges producers are facing and work with them to find practical solutions to help them achieve the new standards.

‘Serious concerns’

The British Free Range Egg Producers Association (BFREPA) and the British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) issued a joint statement saying industry bodies have been liaising closely over the RSPCA Assured amended laying hen welfare standards.

“While we appreciate the pause in the implementation date and the commitment to engage with us in person, we still have serious concerns over a number of the standards that, as it currently stands, will come into force in February 2025,” the statement said.

“We have responded to RSPCA Assured with a clear request that if any issues are identified with the new standards during the consultation/engagement period that do not deliver a demonstrable welfare benefit, that these will be reviewed.

“This is based on the industry’s view that the welfare benefit to the birds of some of the new standards may not be practical, achievable or beneficial.

“We remain committed to high laying hen welfare standards and look forward to a meaningful dialogue with RSPCA Assured on its new standards over the coming months.”