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BASC urges Labour MPs to ban raised laying cages

Shooting UK news:
As DEFRA analyses the responses to its recent consultation on the use of raised laying cages, BASC has emailed a number of Labour MPs urging them to sign an Early Day Motion (EDM), which calls for an outright ban of the controversial cages.

EDM No. 507 was tabled by the Parliamentary spokesman on angling and shooting, Labour MP Martin Salter, and has now attracted 107 signatories at the time of going to press.

It reads: ?This House notes with concern that several large game farms have introduced battery cage systems for game bird laying stock and the available space in such cages is so limited the welfare of the birds is seriously compromised and the system does not conform, whether enriched or not, to the five freedoms which are the basis of the UK?s animal welfare law.?

DEFRA?s draft Code of Practice for the Welfare of Game birds Reared for Sporting Purposes, which was published in November 2009, offers the industry three different options for using raised laying cages in the production of game bird eggs in England:
(1) Retaining the status quo.
(2) Requiring all raised units to be enriched and banning barren cages.
(3) Banning cages.

The Game Farmers? Association (GFA), the National Gamekeepers? Organisation (NGO), the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, the Country Land & Business Association, the Countryside Alliance and the National Farmers? Union are all calling for Option 2.

Organisations calling for Option 3 include BASC, the RSPCA, Animal Aid and the League Against Cruel Sports.

The NGO?s Lindsay Waddell said they were very concerned about BASC?s lobbying on the issue.

?To split the shooting world and give encouragement to the antis as they have done is really unhelpful.?

Mr Waddell added: ?The NGO supports Option 2 on the basis that it was the recommendation of the government?s advisory body ? the Farmed Animal Welfare Council. It would be a significant improvement on where we are now, stopping bad practice and barren cages but allowing essential and long-used systems, such as partridge laying boxes, to continue. We cannot see why BASC needs to go beyond this, let alone why they need to endanger the UK shooting industry.?

The GFA has said the move risks ending all partridge egg farming in England as well as a significant proportion of pheasant egg production.

A spokesman said: ?It could cause meltdown for the game industry and chaos for game shooting. Option 3 would end all partridge egg production in England. We know of no partridge breeding system that does not involve a cage of some sort. Every reared partridge shot in the UK comes from an egg produced in a cage, either here or abroad. Option 3 would also end any use of raised breeding units for pheasants, even those of the largest and best enriched designs, irrespective of their welfare merits.?

BASC, which has previously dismissed EDMs as nothing more than ?parliamentary grafitti?, said it is alarmist to suggest the entire game shooting industry could collapse if Option 3 were chosen.

Responding to the industry?s concerns, a spokesman said: ?We make no bones about pursuing our aim, which the elected Council and relevant advisory committees of BASC have long considered necessary for the future of game shooting, by all open and democratic means. If we are seeking to influence a Labour government, then of course we will lobby Labour MPs. BASC always takes an all-party approach to political issues and has lobbied on that basis.?

DEFRA plans to issue the finalised Code of Practice for the Welfare of Gamebirds Reared for Sporting Purposes in April.

Give your opinion on whether raised laying cages should be banned.