For a long time, we have been fighting against the particularly cruel caging of laying hens. The initiative »Germany goes cage-free« was our first main focus – and it accompanies us until today. In the meantime, however, we can say: We have almost reached our goal. The share of caged hens in the German egg industry is shrinking with each passing year and will soon fall below the five percent mark.
In 2020, Germany had around 43 million laying hens. 61% of these lived in barn systems, 20% in free-range systems, 12% on organic farms and just under 6 % in cages.
By comparison, in 2015 there were 40 million hens, of which 63% were kept in barn systems, 18% in free-range systems, 9% on organic farms and 10% in cages. This shows that the number of hens suffering in cages has almost halved since then. In 2000, the percentage of caged hens was still 87%. This development is the result of a change in attitude in society, which you and we, as a foundation, have influenced greatly.
How it all began
In 1999, the lawyer Wolfgang Schindler, founder of the Albert Schweitzer Foundation, brought about the beginning of the end of cage farming for hens: As the representative of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, he convinced the Federal Constitutional Court that battery cages in use at the time were not compatible with the Animal Welfare Act.
The German egg industry then switched to so-called enriched cages, which are practically just as bad as battery cages. Together with other animal protection groups, we persuaded supermarkets and other companies to stop selling or using cage eggs. This resulted in the campaign »Germany goes cage-free«.
The market share of cage eggs then collapsed to such an extent that, following a further decision by the Federal Constitutional Court, the federal and state governments agreed on abolishing »enriched« cages as well. In 2025 (in cases of hardship in 2028), the transitional period during which the use of these cages is still permitted will finally end.
Much remains to be done internationally
The abolition of cages for laying hens in Germany shows how long and painstaking change processes in the interests of the animals can be – but also that they are possible and that a strategic approach and patience pay off.
Today, we are a member of the international Open Wing Alliance and are also fighting for the abolition of battery cages and »enriched« cages globally – because worldwide, and even in Europe, many laying hens are still suffering in this cruelest system of animal husbandry. This is another reason why we support the European Citizens’ Initiative »End the Cage Age«, which calls for the abolition of cages for all farmed animals in Europe.
You would like to support our work for the animals? You can do so here.