After the socioeconomic cabinet approved on Wednesday night a proposal to
prohibit the forced molting in battery hen cages, animal rights activists
slammed the plan for failing to enact the ban immediately across the
Forced molting is a process by which farmers refrain from feeding
all their hens for one to two weeks, prompting simultaneous molting (shedding
feathers) – after which the egg productivity quality of the hens tends to
The proposal, which was submitted by Agriculture Minister Yair
Shamir, will immediately ban forced molting in every new coop to be built, and
will prohibit the process in all existing cages within three years, the
Agriculture Ministry explained.
While the three-year period is one year
less than was originally advocated by the Agriculture Ministry, it is still
unnecessarily long, according to both the Environmental Protection Ministry and
animal rights activists.
Now that the proposal has received socioeconomic
cabinet endorsement, the Agriculture Ministry must submit the plans to the
Knesset Education, Culture and Sports Committee for approval within 45 days, the
ministry explained. If approved there, the forced molting ban will become law
alongside regulations regarding the confinement and raising of
“This is an important procedure that will dramatically improve the
welfare of battery hens, but insist upon adequate livelihood conditions for the
growers, while taking public health into account and weighing in consumer
considerations and the cost of living,” Shamir said.
cabinet’s decision on Wednesday night determined that within 45 days, the
Interministerial Pricing Committee must examine price control on eggs. As a
result of the transition to banning forced molting, there will be a lower amount
and a smaller size of eggs as well as higher production costs, which experts
have predicted will raise the price about 3 agorot per egg, the Agriculture
The legislative process to improve conditions for hens
began several years ago, after the Agriculture Ministry generated draft
regulations regarding the confinement of hens, which received approval from the
Education, Culture and Sports Committee in the Knesset, the ministry said.
During the discussions that ensued, various changes occurred, including
increasing the minimum area of all cages to 750 sq.cm. and requiring the
installation of additional equipment for egg-bearing hens, as per the European
directive on the subject, the ministry continued.
Although the various
parties involved reached agreements on all of these subjects, the controversial
issue of forced molting remained, according to the Agriculture
Therefore, an interministerial committee was tasked with
formulating and submitting to the government recommendations on the issue, which
occurred about a year ago.
While the Agriculture and Finance ministries
supported the recommendations, the Environmental Protection Ministry opposed
them due to the fact that the existing farms would not have to cease forced
molting immediately, the Agriculture Ministry explained. An immediate cessation
of forced molting in the already existing battery cages should not occur because
the resultant shortage of eggs would negatively affect the public and the
industry, the ministry argued.
The Agriculture Ministry slammed the
Environmental Protection Ministry, stressing that if it was not for the
“irresponsible behavior and unnecessary stubbornness” of the latter, the
industry could have already implemented the regulations and prevent harm to the
welfare of the battery hens.
“Paradoxically, the same office claiming to
promote the welfare of animals is the one that for years was the inhibitor
without apparent logical reasoning toward enacting and implementing these
regulations,” a statement from the Agriculture Ministry said.
Environment Ministry, on the other hand, prided itself upon the fact that
existing henneries would need to cease practicing forced molting within three
years, rather than the original four suggested, assuming the legislation
receives Knesset approval. Allocating four years for the transition would mean
that about 7 million chickens would need to suffer from the molting process, the
Environment Ministry explained.
Meanwhile, although the government
declared in January 2013 that Israel must stop starving chickens, it took almost
a year for the recommendation submission to occur, the ministry
“The Agreement on the issue of starving hens is an important
achievement, but we are concerned that despite this agreement on a prohibition,
this could be transformed into a dead letter in the law books,” said
Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz. “Therefore, we must expedite the
transfer of responsibility for the animal rights unit from the Agriculture
Ministry to the Environmental Protection Ministry.”
The idea of which
ministry should be governing animal welfare has been a hot-button issue lately,
and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu recently established a team to solve this
Activist groups Anonymous for Animal Rights and Let
Animals Live argued that even the three-year transition period allowed for
forced molting is “another demonstration of the urgent need to transfer
enforcement to the Environmental Protection Ministry.”
groups criticized the fact that if the legislation passes battery cages will
still be in use in Israel, even if their sizes are increased to 750 sq.cm. –
which constitute “only minor modifications” in their eyes.