About 1.9 million chickens in Ireland live in cages with only 75 cmsq per bird, about the same size as A4 paper, according to the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA).
On Thursday, the organization asked Irish consumers to take advantage of the Easter holiday to think "where do their eggs come from?", As it sought to draw attention to a European petition to "end the cage."
ISPCA Executive Director Andrew Kelly said the organization is not against egg-raising. However, he said that better living conditions for hens mean better-quality eggs that generate better prices and offer consumers a healthier product. He said that improving the lives of animals was a "win-win-win" situation.
ISPCA is working with the Eurogroup for Animals and Compassion on World Farming to seek ban on caging until 2025. He said that Tesco, McDonalds, Aldi and Lidl have already been "cage-free" in choosing the eggs they sell.
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The use of "sterile" or "battery" cages, where chickens are kept individually, has been banned in the EU since 2012 for welfare reasons, but "enriched" cages can still be used. These allow a little more movement for chickens that are caged collectively, but still limit natural behaviors such as exercise.
Although individual cages are not used in enriched cages, each chicken has about the same space as a sheet of A4 paper, Kelly said.
So far, the "End the Cage Age" campaign, a European Citizenship Initiative aiming for one million signatures, has been supported by more than 700,000 EU citizens, including some 7,000 in Ireland.
Egg producers and retailers should label their egg cartons which are presented inside all egg cartons. As a hen lived and laid her eggs should be stamped on the packaging. The number 1 means that the egg is outdoors, 2 means from a barn, 3 for chickens in cages and 0 for organic.
"The End the Cage Age initiative is the largest and most collaborative animal welfare campaign to be launched in this generation," Kelly said.
"More than 140 animal welfare organizations across Europe are participating, and we are incredibly close to one million EU citizens supporting a future without cages for farm animals."