International Journal for the Study of Animal Problems


There has been increasing public concern in the U.K. and other European countries about some of the intensive methods of livestock production used in modern agriculture. The battery system of egg production, which produces almost all of the eggs consumed in Britain, has aroused particular opposition, but there is also strong feeling about housing systems that effectively immobilize their inhabitants, such as certain types of veal calf and pig rearing units. In a recent test case in West Germany, an egg producer was charged with "continuous cruelty" to his 60,000-strong battery flock. A high court decided it was cruel to deprive the birds of the ability to follow their behavioral instincts to scratch, preen and stretch their wings. This ruling cannot, however, be regarded as final. The effects of such production techniques on the quality of life of the animals involved have led some interest groups to campaign for changes in the British Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Codes of Practice relating to animal welfare. More restrictive codes are sought to limit the methods of production available to the farmer by preventing the use of specific currently popular intensive systems. It is generally agreed that the costs of producing livestock products affected by these proposed restrictions would rise, although it is unclear how much. It is not difficult to understand how this cost increase might come about.