Knesset cries foul on battery eggs
Government decision prohibits starvation of hens, increases cage size.
Reality show stars protest hen conditions Photo: Alon Sharaf
Farmers will no longer be able to starve their hens for prolonged periods in
order to increase egg output, the Socioeconomic Cabinet decided on
The process, called forced molting, involves depriving
egg-bearing hens of food for between 10 to 14 days, which prompts the chickens
to lay more eggs, according to the group Anonymous for Animal
After struggles led by AAR, the Environmental Protection Ministry
and the Agriculture Ministry, the cabinet – chaired by Finance Minister Yuval
Steinitz – approved a prohibition of this practice, which will go into effect on
January 1, an Environment Ministry statement said.
“We end today a
terrible and unnecessary cruelty that has been performed on chickens for years
only to increase economic benefits,” Environmental Protection Minister Gilad
Erdan said, praising Steinitz for leading the cabinet to adopt the
Despite the positive results of eliminating starvation –
namely, the improved welfare of the chickens – the Agriculture Ministry did warn
that in order to maintain production, farmers will need to nearly double the
number of battery cages, and egg prices will likely rise about six
“The chickens will see the light at the end of the tunnel,” a
statement from the Agriculture Ministry said.
In addition to prohibiting
hen starvation, the cabinet now requires that all battery cage sizes be a
minimum of 750 sq.cm., meeting the European standards for minimum cage size, a
measure to be instituted within seven years at the request of the Agriculture
Meanwhile, the cabinet also authorized a requirement for adding
essential furniture for egg-laying to cages, to be implemented within four years
– a compromise between the Environment Ministry’s request that it be carried out
within two years, and the Agriculture Ministry’s seven.
approving these regulations, the cabinet established an inter-ministerial team
of finance, agriculture and environment representatives, to investigate the
economic significance of repealing forced molting and present its findings to
the cabinet within 80 days – according to the Environment Ministry.
years of discussions at the Knesset Education Committee have not reached a
consensus, although the current cages no longer meet the country’s veterinary,
environmental and animal welfare standards, the Agriculture Ministry
Today, most Israeli chickens live in coops sized at about 300-450
sq.cm. with no additional accessories, the ministry explained. Stressing that
the new regulations will constitute a significant improvement of the chickens’
welfare, the ministry warned that any further delay on the Education Committee’s
part in approving the new regulations will result in a status quo that is
dangerous for the birds.
Although Israel might be behind in approving
legislation for the benefit of chickens, it is completing the process much
quicker than other nations, according to the Agriculture Ministry.
the EU ordered a directive on cage size in 1999, it took around 13 years, until
January 2012, to organize and execute the legislation.
Today, there are
approximately 14 states that have not implemented the regulation, and 29 percent
of European cages do not meet Europe’s mandated size of 750 sq.cm., the ministry
In response, AAR praised the cabinet approval as “an important step
in the prohibition of all types of cages.”
“We praise Minister Gilad
Erdan, who led the opposition to starving chickens and imprisoning them in
battery cages, and we thank the minister of finance and cabinet members for
their support,” AAR spokesman Ronen Bar said.
“Today, more than 40% of
egg production in Europe occurs in coops without cages, and we will continue to
work toward the adoption of a regulation that forbids all types of cages in
Israel as well.”
About three weeks ago, when the chicken welfare
regulations were first supposed to come up for discussion in the Socioeconomic
Cabinet, AAR members protested what they called the waste of hundreds of
millions of shekels on cages banned in more than 30 countries.
the organization had said, has invested NIS 350 million worth of public funds in
dangerously tiny cages, and legislation had been stunted due to disputes between
the two ministries.
During the group’s protest, which occurred on July 9,
dozens came to the center of Tel Aviv, displaying battery cages and toy chickens
and dogs. They asked passersby: “Would you imprison your dog in a crowded
battery cage?” AAR’s hope is that eventually, the battery cages in Israel will
be entirely replaced by large coops that exist in many advanced countries –
playpens without cages, built on several levels and containing a courtyard,
according to the group.
“A person who would imprison a dog in a tiny cage
and starve him for weeks would be accused of abuse, and rightly so,” Bar had
said. “Imprisonment of chickens in these conditions is a violation of the Animal