A survey carried out by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) ahead of Pancake Day tomorrow (February 21) has revealed that 87% of the UK value hen welfare.
The survey was carried out by RSPCA Assured, the RSPCA’s food label and farm assurance scheme.
It also revealed that consumers in Britain eat around three to four eggs per week.
In the wake of the UK’s worst ever outbreak of avian influenza (bird flu), the RSPCA has aimed to draw public attention towards hen welfare after egg shortages from bird flu culls have lead to imported eggs from “potentially lower-welfare farms”.
The animal welfare charity’s survey also revealed that 87% of people believe hens should be provided with enrichment – such as perches, items to peck at and areas to dustbathe – while house indoors.
The charity said it was pleased that only 6% of people do not believe hen welfare is important.
Food campaigner and broadcaster Kate Quilton said she is concerned about the impact bringing birds indoors, amid the bird flu housing order, has on hen welfare.
“It’s reassuring to know that, whether barn or free-range, all hens on RSPCA Assured farms are still cared for to higher welfare standards,” she said.
“With Pancake Day just around the corner, I want to help remind people that it’s very easy to make a big difference to the welfare of hens by only choosing eggs with a higher welfare label such as RSPCA Assured.”
RSPCA laying hen expert, Kate Norman, said chickens are inquisitive and social animals that need “vital enrichment” so they can express their natural behaviours and “be happy and healthy”.
“This is why whether they are free-range or barn, all RSPCA Assured laying hens are cared for to higher welfare standards,” she said.
“Not only are RSPCA Assured farms 100% cage-free, but the birds are also provided with raised perches and plenty of enrichment.”
“When you enter the hen house, it’s like a Night at the Proms,” RSPCA Assured assessor, Caren Darby, said.
“It’s a sound and a sight to behold. Although it might seem like a whimsical thing to give to hens, it’s actually a beneficial form of enrichment as the noise they make will likely increase the time the hens interact with them.”