Israel’s Agriculture Ministry on Monday published for public comments the draft of its revised animal welfare regulations regarding raising chickens for eggs in agricultural settings. The regulations adopt for the first time advanced Western standards and constitute the first stage of a reform in the egg-laying industry. Among other things, the new rules include a ban on the use of cage coops, a definition of minimum living space for egg-laying hens, a ban on forced molting, and advanced technological requirements.
Forced molting is the practice by poultry growers of artificially provoking a flock to molt simultaneously, typically by withdrawing food and sometimes water for an extended period when egg production is naturally decreasing toward the end of the first egg-laying phase.
Agriculture Minister Oded Forer (Israel Beiteinu) said: “We kept our promise. This is the first step in a revolution that will spring the poultry industry in Israel into the 21st century, and combine industry upgrades with public health and animal welfare. It’s time for the old-fashioned cages to disappear from the Israeli landscape, and make room for modern chicken coops with biological safety and greater welfare for the birds. We work to bring Israeli agriculture to the reality of the 21st century, in all aspects, and these regulations are the opening shot for such necessary changes in the field of egg-laying.”
Under the new regulations, any new coop will be without cages. And as of June 1, 2029, all cage coops will be banned. The transition period is intended to allow the industry to prepare and upgrade in accordance with the required changes, since in Israel today, about 93% of the laying hens’ coops are cages of various types.
But even during seven-year the transition period, a minimum living space has been set for the egg-laying hens in the existing coops, ranging from 600 square centimeters (93 square inches) to 750 square centimeters (116 square inches), depending on the size of the coop.
Also, within a year, debeaking – beak trimming of the egg-laying hens after they leave the hatchery will be banned. Debeaking will only be permitted while the chicks are in the hatchery, and it must be performed most beneficially, to prevent them from injuring each other.
In addition, the new regulations require medical attention or euthanasia to prevent the suffering of hens who have been injured by a poultry worker and stipulate the grower’s obligation to consult a veterinarian or a poultry breeding guide in any case of an abnormal event. An abnormal event is defined as a case in which mortality in a coop exceeds 0.25% per day or a drop in egg laying in excess of 10% per day or 5% within three days.