The Scottish government has launched a consultation on banning the use of cages to house laying hens for egg production.

The government is seeking views on phasing out the use of enriched cages, which offered more room to nest, roost, scratch and rest than the previously used battery or barren cages that were banned in the UK in 2012.

The consultation was opened for responses yesterday (Tuesday, April 3) and will run for 12 weeks until Tuesday, June 25, 2024.

In 2020, a YouGov survey showed that 88% of the British public consider using cages in farming is cruel and 77% of those surveyed supported a complete ban on the use of cages in farming.

Over 1.1 million hens were housed in cages in Scotland as of February 2024, the government said.

Agriculture minister Jim Fairlie said: “As we committed to in our Programme for Governments, we want to improve the welfare of laying hens to ensure their confinement does not negatively impact their normal behaviours.

“Significant progress has already been made in recognising the importance of animal welfare – both in government policies and the demand from the public in the choice they make when shopping.

“If implemented, the ban would be another example of Scotland leading the way in improving the welfare of animals by being the first UK nation to ban the practice.”

Fairlie said the Scottish government has watched as the European Union put forward legislation to prohibit using cages for all farmed livestock.

Luxembourg and Austria have banned the use of cages and others are “phasing them out”, he said.

“In the coming weeks will also call for evidence on the use of cages in the gamebird and quail egg and meat sectors ahead of consulting on phasing out cages in those sectors in due course,” he said.

“I would encourage everyone with an interest in this issue to take part to help us shape how we protect the welfare of laying hens.”