Ban on battery farming of laying hens
Legal situation now
§18 (3) TSG states:
- Conventional cages for laying hens:
- It is forbidden to build or use such cages.
- Cages built till 1. January 2003 can be used till 31st December 2008.
- Enriched cages for laying hens:
- It is forbidden to build or use such cages from 1st January 2005 onwards.
- Cages built before 1st January 2005 can be used for 15 years from the date of their first usage onwards.
VGT campaign bringing the ban about
In 2003, VGT decided to start an all-out campaign against hen batteries. Those cage systems had become the epitome of animal abuse in Austria. In the 1980s, virtually all eggs in Austria were produced in cage systems. Animal groups made the public aware of hen suffering in those cages then. In 1994, VGT could show by using UV light that 25 % of eggs marked
free range or
barn egg were actually produced in hen batteries. It was then that the supermarkets decided to introduce a control-scheme that made sure that such betrayal could not happen again. The supermarket chain Billa actually stopped selling battery eggs altogether.
In 2003, visits by animal rights activists in 48 battery farms keeping 40 % of battery hens revealed the atrocious suffering of the hens and that many welfare regulations were being broken. Politicians and animal industries replied to the cage ban campaign that they would introduce enriched cages. However, VGT and the Austrian animal rights movement were not content with this. Under the rally cry
a cage is a cage, eventually a complete ban was achieved.
Politicians and animal industries then tried to make the ban unworkable by not promoting eggs from other than cage production and by making no effort to achieve consumer awareness of the imminent ban and of alternatives. The aim was to show that consumers would not buy more expensive eggs and hence that the cage ban would be the end of egg production in Austria. Consequently it would have to be revoked.
In order to safeguard the ban, VGT persuaded all supermarkets to stop selling battery eggs. Many companies using industrial eggs either changed to other than cage produced eggs or to vegan alternatives. Eventually it became clear that the ban actually would be practicable.
By the end of 2007, only 20 % of laying hens in Austria were in battery cages. Imports of cage eggs make up 30 % of all eggs used. By changing to cage-free systems, about 40 % of hens were not restocked. The higher price of non-cage produced eggs has not been handed on to the customers yet.