Poultry welfare – laying hens: consultation

We are consulting on phasing out cages for laying hens and gamebirds in order to improve their welfare by allowing birds to exhibit their normal behaviours.

Part 1 – Introduction

The Scottish Government is committed to improving the welfare of laying hens by addressing the issue of confinement, so that birds have the freedoms to exhibit their normal behaviours.

In the last decade or so, and particularly since the 2012 ban on (barren) battery cages, there has been a gradual shift in focus from the public and animal welfare organisations towards farming systems which do not closely confine animals. A survey in 2020, found that 88% of the British public consider using cages in farming is cruel and 77% of those surveyed supported a complete ban on the use of cages in farming (YouGov 2020[1]). In 2019, an ‘End the Cage Age’ petition calling on the UK government to ban all cages for farm animals resulted in over 100,000 signatures, triggering a debate in Parliament in March 2020[2]. In August 2021, another petition was started calling for the UK government to legislate to ‘End the Cage Age’[3].

A similar ‘End the Cage Age’ European Citizens’ Initiative was launched across Europe and was supported by over 1 million citizens across the EU in 2018. In response, the EU Commission announced in June 2021 its plan to bring forward a legislative proposal to prohibit the use of cages for all farmed livestock, including enriched cages for laying hens. This legislative proposal was to have been introduced in 2023 but is now anticipated for 2024. The Commission intended the legislation to enter into force from 2027, but the initial announcement did not address what the phase out periods would be. In the European Union, Luxembourg and Austria have already banned the use of enriched cages for laying hens. Germany, Czech Republic, and Slovakia are in the process of phasing them out and Australia has stated that it aims to ban the use of cages for egg production by 2036.

In 2016 the major supermarkets pledged that they would stop selling shell eggs from hens kept in enriched cages by 2025 and some have already done so. In addition, some retailers have extended the 2025 pledge to the eggs used in their processed products, such as powder or liquid egg.

This drive to ban cages reflects a demand from society to move to more ethical production systems. The Scottish Government has heard these calls and wants to bring welfare standards in line with wider public values, as well as remaining aligned with likely developments across the EU.

The proposal on which we seek your views is to ban enriched cage production entirely, including the few (barren) battery cages which remain in use for laying hen units with fewer than 350 birds, pullets and breeder layers. The policy proposal aims to improve animal welfare standards in a way which is also sustainable and economically viable for the Scottish egg industry.

The consultation invites comments on the impact of the proposal on the welfare of laying hens; the laying hen industry; consumers; the environment and trade. The consultation will help determine the Scottish Government’s future policy in this area.


This proposal would prohibit the use of cages throughout the entire Scottish laying hen sector, including laying hen units with fewer than 350 birds, pullets, and breeder layers.

Animal welfare is a devolved policy responsibility. The proposals outlined in this consultation relate to Scotland only.


Anyone can reply to this consultation. The Scottish Government particularly encourages responses from individuals and businesses covered by this consultation including those that are not directly involved in egg production such as the following:

  • Academic institutions;
  • Animal welfare organisations;
  • Consumers;
  • Egg packers;
  • Farm assurance schemes;
  • Farming organisations;
  • Laying hen breeders;
  • Laying hen producers;
  • Broiler Breeders
  • Broiler Breeder producers
  • Pullet rearers;
  • Local authorities (LA’s);
  • Retailers;
  • Trade bodies; and
  • The veterinary profession.


The consultation will run for 12 weeks.

Opening on 2 April 2024 and closing on 25 June 2024.

How to make an enquiry about this consultation

If you have any queries about this consultation please contact the Scottish Government's Animal Welfare Team at: AnimalHealthWelfare@gov.scot

Responding to this consultation paper

Please respond to this consultation using the Scottish Government's consultation hub: "Citizen Space". You can access and respond to this consultation at:


You can save and return to your response while the consultation remains open. However, please ensure that your consultation response is submitted via Citizen Space before the closing date of 25 June 2024.

If you are unable to submit your response through our consultation hub, then please submit it along with a completed Respondent Information Form (which has been published alongside this consultation paper) to:

Laying Hen Welfare Consultation

Animal Welfare Team

The Scottish Government

P Spur

Saughton House

Broomhouse Drive

EH11 3XD

Please do try to reply using the Citizen Space hub as it makes administration of consultations considerably easier.

We appreciate that many respondees will only have an interest in one particular part of this consultation and may therefore only wish to respond to the section of relevance. Where this is the case you should complete the section of interest using Citizen Space or, alternatively, complete the consultation questionnaire and return it to the address above along with the Respondee Information Form.

Please try to answer all the questions; however if you are unable to answer any particular question then please feel free to move on to the next. Please note that you will be asked to explain the reasons for your answer as appropriate in the space provided in the questionnaire on Citizen Space.

When answering the consultation questions, we ask that you take into consideration the information provided in this document alongside your own relevant knowledge or personal experience. All opinions are welcome.

Handling your response

If you respond using Citizen Space, you will be directed to the About You page before submitting your response. Please indicate on the Respondee Information Form how you wish your response to be handled and, in particular, whether you are happy for your response to published. If you ask for your response not to be published, we will regard it as confidential, and we will treat it accordingly.

All respondents should be aware that the Scottish Government is subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 and would therefore have to consider any request made to it under the Act for information relating to responses made to this consultation exercise.

To find out how we handle your personal data, please see our privacy policy.

Next steps in the process

Where respondents have given permission for their response to be made public, and after we have checked that they contain no potentially defamatory material, responses will be made publicly available at http://consult.gov.scot. If you use Citizen Space to respond, you will receive a copy of your response via email.

When the consultation closes all responses will be analysed and considered along with any other available evidence to help us decide on whether to progress our proposals. Responses will be published where permission to do so has been given.

A consultation summary report will also be published that will include an anonymised analysis of the responses received and set out the next steps.

Scottish Government consultation process

Consultation is an essential part of the policy making process. It gives you the opportunity to have your say on what we do or propose to do and it gives us valuable insight, perspective, and evidence that in turn informs and shapes what we do.

All Scottish Government consultations are available online and can be found at:


Consultation responses received are analysed and used as part of the decision making process, along with a range of other available information and evidence. We publish a report for every consultation we undertake. Depending on the nature of the consultation undertaken, the responses received may:

  • indicate the need for policy development or review,
  • inform the development of a particular policy,
  • help decisions to be made between alternative policy proposals,
  • be used to finalise legislation before it is implemented.

While the details of individual circumstances described in a response to a consultation may usefully inform the policy process, public consultations cannot address individual concerns and comments, which should be directed to the relevant body as appropriate.

This consultation is in line with the Scottish Government’s Consultation Principles. Please note that a consultation period of 12 weeks applies. More information and consultation guidance can be found at –

Consultations in the Scottish Government: guidance - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)


Email: animal.health@gov.scot

Back to top