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Science, legislation and hen welfare
  1. Marisa Erasmus, BSc, MSc
  1. Department of Animal Science, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824, USA
  1. e-mail: erasmusm{at}

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IN THE past two decades there have been major changes in how farm animals are housed and managed. This is partly due to increased public awareness and interest in farm animal welfare and legislative changes. The most notable change in farm animal welfare legislation has been regarding housing for laying hens. In 1999, the EU banned the use of conventional battery cages by 2012 (Directive 1999/74/EC), resulting in a shift to alternative housing systems, such as furnished (enriched) cages, and loose-housing systems (eg, aviaries and free-range systems). Directive 1999/74/EC has been publicised as the ‘most important single piece of legislation to affect poultry keeping’ (Frölich and others 2012), having both economical and political effects (Pritchard 2012). Similar legislative changes are slowly occurring in other countries as well. For example, conventional battery cages will be phased out in some states in the USA within the next few years (eg, Proposition 2 of 2008 in California and Public Act 117 of 2009 in Michigan). Alternative systems provide more behavioural opportunities, such as dust bathing, nesting and perching, leading to improved welfare if considered from the view that hens have more behavioural freedom. However, injurious pecking remains a major welfare problem in loose-housing systems, more so than in …

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