The Scottish government has launched a public consultation on proposals to ban egg production from laying hens in enriched cages by 2034.

The Scottish egg industry is just over half the size of that existing in NI, with around 5.98m laying hens and pullets being reared for laying, on farms.

A total of 17.5% of hens are kept in enriched cages, leaving over 80% in free range, barn and organic systems.

The percentage of the Scottish flock kept in non-cage systems is similar to that in NI, while across all of Britain the total is around 72%, well ahead of any EU country.

That has been mainly driven by pledges made by a number of major UK retailers in 2016 that they would stop selling eggs from hens kept in enriched cages from 2025.

However, the Scottish government believes this voluntary approach “only goes so far” and intervention is necessary to address the welfare of laying hens producing eggs for retailers who haven’t signed a pledge, as well as the food service and egg processing sector.

Preferred option

Their preferred option is a 2030 ban on the instalment of new cages on farms leading to a 2034 ban on enriched cage production.

“We consider that it most effectively balances improvements in bird welfare and ensures sustainability for the laying hen sector,” states the Scottish government consultation.