Devon charity rehouses last battery hen

Battery hens
Image caption An EU ban on battery cages comes in to effect on 1 January 2012

A chicken - being described as "Britain's last battery hen" - has been given a new home in Devon.

The hen, named Liberty, was re-housed in time for the EU-wide ban on small, cramped cages.

From 1 January, cages will have to provide enough space for birds to spread their wings, perch and be able to move around.

But the British Hen Welfare Trust said not all EU countries would adhere to the ban.

The ban was brought about after animal welfare campaigners fought for four decades to outlaw battery cages.

Jane Howarth, from the British Hen Welfare Trust, said over December volunteers had re-housed 6,000 battery hens, with just one more to be rehomed.

She said: "She will be sitting in her cage very unaware that we're going to arrive and bring her out. We are looking forward to getting her. She will be living with me."

While she is confident the UK will adhere to the ban, Mrs Howarth and her members have concerns about other countries.

She said: "The British egg industry has really stepped up to the mark and they are ready. But at the moment we're looking at a situation where there could be 80 million hens still in illegal cages in Europe."

The British Hen Welfare Trust said the new cages can hold up to 90 birds, which will have space to spread their wings, perch and be able to go from one end of the cage to the other. The cage will now have to provide 750 square centimetres of space for each bird

The cage must also contain litter, perches and claw-shortening devices.

'Profit from flouting law'

Old-style cages only had 550 square centimetres of space for each bird - which is less than a sheet of A4 paper.

Agriculture Minister Jim Paice said: "It is unacceptable that after the ban on battery cages comes into effect, millions of hens across Europe will still remain in poor conditions.

"We have all had plenty of time to make these changes, but 13 EU nations have not done so. The UK egg industry alone has spent £400million ensuring hens live in better conditions.

"It would be unthinkable if countries continuing to house hens in poor conditions were to profit from flouting the law."

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