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European Union Bans Battery Cages for Egg-Laying Hens

Here's a news article about the ban on battery cages in Europe. As I read it, I thought about something that Prof. Robert Garner has said. He said that, given how hard it has been to get this kind of change enacted, which does so little to actually change anything, it's "intuitively odd" that anyone would think that there's anyway that true abolitionist measures could be enacted anytime in the near future.

Garner believes that we ought not to be caging chickens and eating their eggs - he believes that we ought not to be causing any harm to any others at all - but what he also believes is that how we achieve a "vegan world" is going to involve slow and incremental changes. What do you think?

European Union Bans Battery Cages for Egg-Laying Hens

Law comes after 12-year transition, but some countries still won’t cooperate


As of Jan. 1, 2012, egg-laying hens across many European countries have fewer discomforts ruffling their feathers: The European Commission has officially implemented its ban on battery cages, the notoriously cramped cages used by many egg farmers and criticized by animal rights proponents and veterinarians who call them cruel and harmful to the birds' welfare.

The law, finalized in 1999, comes after a 12-year "phase-out" period meant to allow egg farmers time to implement the costly transition away from battery cages. According to the Scotsman newspaper, replacing battery cages with more-hospitable "enriched" cages has alone cost U.K. egg producers an estimated £400 million ($613 million).
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This is actually not doing anything for the chickens at all. Battery cages will be banned yes, but the "farmers" still have the choice to use "enriched" cages, which are almost the same as battery cages.

The only thing this will do is make people feel better about eating eggs.

Leaving aside the questions of what this change means in terms of the lived experiences of chickens and how this change will affect people's attitudes and behaviors regarding egg consumption, is the fact that it's taken as long as it has to enact even this small change in the system an indication of just how unlikely it is that any abolitionist agenda is achievable in the foreseeable future? 

The difference between ordinary cages and enriched cages: The inner size of this frame is the size of ordinary cages. Add 1 cm of the frame and you have an enriched cage. That´s all the difference :-(

(PS: The model inside the frame is Libby - an ex-cage hen now living in Paradise along with 10 other ex-hens)

Many of the European countries, after having 12 years to prepare for this, are still not complying and choosing instead to slaughter their hens, in preference to allowing them to be re-homed, to avoid the public seeing the conditions the hens are in. 

I agree with Michaela, in that this is likely to allow more consumers the comfort of consuming eggs laid by "happy hens." Hens who are still unable to spread their wings for the duration of their entire lives. 

I also agree with what I think you're suggesting, Tim. Insignificant reforms like this and the UEP/HSUS deal will often be very difficult to enact, seemingly bringing little to no benefit to the hens themselves, but affording consumers more pleasure. So, rather than spending a moment of our advocacy time asking for reforms such as this, it appears obvious to me that our time would be far better spent bringing to the attention of others the fact that using hens as machines is wrong in the first place, and the ease in which one can live their lives without the need for these eggs at all. 

It seems that if we spend our individual advocacy time more wisely, we may have more success in achieving what we all want. 


I think it isn't the case that if only we could get out the rights-based message that there would be a big increase in the number of vegans and vegetarians. I think there are plenty of people who have heard, thought through and understood an argument for why it isn't ethical for humans to harm, use and kill other animals and choose to continue to do so (or support industries and practices that  do so) anyway. In fact, I suppose that the majority of people who have thought about this issue haven't changed their practices in any substantial way. There is a survey that's been done of ethics professors which indicates that even among these educated and informed people (who, after all, teach what it is to behave ethically) the majority continue to eat other animals even though a majority acknowledge that they ought not to. Knowing and doing are two separate things.

What I think we want to believe is that if only people knew what we knew, and because it is so obvious to us that what we know is true, then most other people would agree with us and act like us on the basis of that agreement. I think that's wishful thinking. So, to spend our time exclusively making the moral argument would be (and has been) a waste of time.

What reform measures like this one do, irrespective of whatever changes they make in the lives of other animals, is to change the underlying social construction (if you'll allow that term) of human-nonhuman relations. That is, reforms such as this can help to begin to shift the status quo from "animals don't matter at all & we can do whatever we want to with them" to "other animals do matter, and it isn't true that we can do whatever we want to with them".

I think an abolitionist approach wildly overestimates the impact an "ethical argument" can have and seriously misunderstands the glacially slow and incredibly messy process of social change. Still, advocates who make an ethical argument are part of the solution, and so are advocates that work for incremental reforms of the existing systems of exploitation. (And so are the people who are trying to abolish some things altogether through legal action.) Each advocate ought to do what they think is best, according to their abilities, according to their means and opportunities. No advocate should be so self-assured as to think that they know with certainty that what another advocate does is counter-productive. Advocates ought to spend their time advocating for something, not advocating against other advocates.


Tim, I disagree with this statement. I don't believe that any status quo holds that "animals don't matter at all & we can do whatever we want to with them". 

I think that if you're basing the success of reform measures, in regard to changing the underlying social construction of human-nonhuman relations on this premise, you would be mistaken. 

Tim Gier said:

That is, reforms such as this can help to begin to shift the status quo from "animals don't matter at all & we can do whatever we want to with them" to "other animals do matter, and it isn't true that we can do whatever we want to with them".


Roger, you say that veganism as the moral baseline is a recent development. I believe Tom Regan was advocating for veganism as the very least advocates for other animals should be doing in the '80's. Although he may have been using slightly different words back then, of course. 

I also think that if veganism as a moral baseline is more widely accepted these days, the internet would be more responsible for that than any single advocate or theory, who may wish to claim responsibility for it. 

In my opinion veganism has become a more central theme in the movement because more and more vegetarians are making the jump and evolving in the way they think about this issue.  I personally don't think the movement's shift toward veganism as the moral baseline has much do to with a shift in the general public or a significant decrease in the number of omnivores.  I just see it as more vegetarians becoming vegan and veganism developing as the baseline of the movement as a consequence.  The question in my mind is; is the change within the movement creating change within our society, or is it mostly just the movement itself that is changing? 

This is my website.  I've had it up for the past eight months.  I also print my own leaflets and leave them at health food stores, coffee shops, etc...  I printed 4000 eight months ago, and so far I have put out more than 2000.  The leaflets have the url to my website and my website has my contact information.  I kind of expected to receive a few emails here and there of people telling me they like the site or that I stink or whatever, but in that time I have only received one email; a vegan woman from Toronto who was visiting Ottawa (the town where I live), picked up one of my leaflets, and wanted to buy 100.  I gladly sent her 300 for free . 

I have to admit that I've found the whole thing kind of....frustrating, I guess you could say.  Eight months and not a single email from a non-vegan who picked up one of my brochures, or stumbled upon my site and was somehow influenced enough to write me.  Now, I'm sure the leaflets have influenced someone, in some way or other; I don't think most people can read about the suffering of other animals and experience NOTHING.  But still, the fact remains that in eight months I don't think I've caused a single person to actually go vegan.  Which has caused me to ask the question; at this point, is 100% vegan advocacy enough to change our culture?  I personally don't think it is.  I think our culture's attitude toward animals needs to evolve a little bit more before any number of people will be willing to accept an argument for veganism. 

I am going to continue doing what I'm doing and promote veganism, however, I'm not down on welfare anymore.  I think welfare, as crappy as it often is, will ultimately help our culture, more and more, to start to recognize that animals do have moral value.  And that's key.  But you've got to meet people where they're at, and I think if we reject all welfare reforms and refuse to meet our culture in the middle, it may take a lot longer to create a foundation for change needed to move our society toward abolition.   At least that's my view today.      




I'm only just beginning to consider really the issues involved in this discussion. I'm just learning as much as I can and feeling my way, asking questions many of you here have probably been asking for much longer and so your answers and sharing here is valuable. Today I happened to speak to Compassion In World Farming to ask about specific conditions for various animals in 'higher welfare' conditions, and have to say that after all the suffering I've been reading and hearing about this last few weeks, i felt some relief to know that changes are being made, some of the most cruel practices phased out. That some hens although still living in miserable dark barns probably in toxic waste at night, during the day at least have access to outdoors and can spread their wings. Will this though, lead people to be more comfortable eating eggs, and so it take longer for them to grasp the concept of speciesism...sadly, I think it probably will. The person I spoke to didn't have time to give me precise clear details for each animal, and so I'll have to do much more research to find out exactly what the conditions are for each animal, and what is being done to reduce their suffering. But the trend, generally, seemed to be towards a recognition of the animal's right not to suffer, and to have more natural living conditions.

I'm touched by everybody's dedicated efforts on this site. Tyler, you may not have got much feedback to your website, but its meant something to me, that you're there, doing everything you can.

I loved the pictures of Libby!

What I'd love to find is a site that gave the story of each animal, what conditions are like now for them, in each country, under each separate certification standard, what legislation is being worked on to improve the standard of care. Where its being enforced, where its not. Something that raised all the key issues, monitored and updated the information so that anyone who wants to get involved and active on behalf of animals...or just find out about them, can.

I know that each of the animal welfare sites offers a certain amount of info...I just wish it was presented in a more accessible clearer way, and I feel left with more questions than answers. Maybe I need to create this site I'm looking for. An information resource for say, children doing a school project, who may want it that simply laid out, with pictures and stories about animals, which woke the children's hearts to animals, as it eductated. Hmmm maybe I've found a way I could help, and learn what i need to know at the same time.

If anyone does know of such a site, Or useful resource sites. I'd love to know. Thanks.

Hi Louise, thank you for your response.  I'm not disappointed by the lack of response I've gotten about the site.  I just keep doing what I'm doing and don't worry about it.  I think that's the only way to stay sane as an animal advocate or vegan advocate or whatever.  If you get hung up by the lack of response, you're going to go nuts!  You've just got to keep your head down and keep plugging along.

The only reason I mentioned the lack of response to what I'm doing is because it ties into something someone else said.  They talked about how there's this general belief in the vegan advocacy community that all we need to do is put this information into people's hands and they'll get it.  I just don't think it's that simple.  The lack of response I get, not only from my site and literature but also in my day to day discussions with people about veganism, is to some extent an indication that simply making a logical case for veganism often won't cause individuals to go vegan.  I think the reason is that veganism is just too far from where they're at.  I just think most people don't change that way.  I think it often requires baby steps. 

I beleive that vegan education needs to form the foundation of everything we do.  It needs to be a clear message and one that is visible to the public.  However, I don't beleive that vegan education alone will lead to abolition any time in the near future.  I think that animal welfare can help move the ball downfield, and slowly cause our culture, more and more, to recognize the moral value of animals.  This not only will help improve the day to day lives of farm animals, but will also, in conjuction with a clear and visible message about veganism, create more vegans in the long term.  Or so it seems to me. 

Hi Tyler,

I agree with what you say, education in all kinds of ways, will move us towards end of speciesism.  To hear of the improvements in welfare standards is something, at least.  And ultimately will be part of the transition to a whole new way of living in relationship to animals.  But I'm also listening to lots of podcast discussions about how these improvements may just dressing up speciesism and making it more palatable. 

I'm learning a lot from the discussions in the podcasts here about how to speak to people, different approaches to use, what might make someone more open to veganism.  Still haven't decided how best to act, and am just learning as much as I can with a few ideas bobbing around.  

I do feel confident that people will change, and it could happen very quickly with the way information and ideas are shared on the internet.   Also what I think has great potential are the kinds of demonstrations Sharon Nunez and Jose Vallez's organisation in Spain are doing (another podcast interview)  Then found some pictures of their demonstrations on the internet. They are dramatic and impactful.  Artful.  Capturing the attention of the public through the way they stood in a formation, all wore the same thing, their chosen backdrop was this enormous powerful megatropolis, and in their hands they held the bodies of animals that had been discarded by the animal abuse industry.   Baby pigs, mice, all these beautiful little beings, who were for a moment, not just discarded but there before people's eyes.  Very powerful.  They shared some very moving accounts of how that emotionally affected the public and created a lot of vegans, and animal advocates.




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