Around the world, more than 7 billion hens are raised per year, and the vast majority of these hens spend their entire lives crammed in metal cages, where they cannot stretch their wings or walk. The space per hen in these cages is less than a letter-sized sheet of paper, and the restriction is so severe that hens usually develop abnormalities in their bones due to their inability to move, and experience stress and frustration by not being able to perform their natural behaviors.
Hens are sentient, intelligent and sociable animals. Scientific studies have shown that they can count; they anticipate the future, which in turn affects their decision-making; they empathize with their chicks; and they enjoy social activities such as dust-bathing.
“In the wild, chickens spend their day scratching and pecking the ground in search of food. They dust-bathe to keep their feathers clean and healthy. They look for different places to lay their eggs, and at night they sleep on tree branches to keep themselves protected from predators. In cages, hens cannot do any of these things”, says Le Thi Hang, Corporate outreach and Producer Engagement.
Several countries have totally or partially banned the use of cages for egg-laying hens, including the members of the European Union, Bhutan, India and New Zealand. In the United States, several states, such as California and Washington, have passed their own bans.
"In recent years, growing concern about and the rejection of the intensive confinement of egg-laying hens have mobilized companies, governments, universities and organizations to develop and implement alternatives that offer better welfare conditions to these animals. In particular, in the first time, the Vietnam Husbandry Law 2018 indicated the Humane treatment for livestock production" Hang noted.
Among the alternatives available in the Vietnam market, there are cage-free production systems, where hens live in closed sheds and have nests in which to lay their eggs, elevated perches where they can rest, litter to scratch, peck and dust-bathe and enough space to walk, stretch their wings and fly. In free-range systems, hens also have access to an outside area where they can exercise, sunbathe and receive greater stimulation from their environment.
In Vietnam and Southeast Asia, cage-free eggs are already available in supermarkets, and dozens of companies in the food industry have made commitments to buy only cage-free eggs in their supply chains by 2020, 2022 or 2028 at the latest. These companies include AccorHotels (Novotel, Pullman ect..), Marriott International, Unilever, McDonald’s, and among others.
Humane Society International works with food industry companies on the adoption and implementation of their cage-free policies and with poultry farmers to achieve a successful transition. The shift towards systems of greater animal welfare will continue, as more consumers say, "No” to cages and, if they consume eggs, choose cage-free.