Joint Committee On Human Rights Eighth Report

Welfare of Laying Hens (Enriched Cages) Bill

39. The Welfare of Laying Hens (Enriched Cages) Bill,[49] introduced by Mr Chris Mullin MP, would make it unlawful knowingly to keep, or to cause or permit to be kept, laying hens in an enriched cage (that is one referred to in Chapter III of Council Directive 1999/74/EC of 19 July 1999 laying down minimum standards for the protection of laying hens). There would be a defence of lawful authority or excuse. The Bill would engage the right of the owners of enriched cages to use their property (Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the ECHR), and by placing the burden of establishing lawful authority or excuse on the keeper of the hens it might also engage the right to a fair hearing under ECHR Article 6.1. In our view, the provisions serve a legitimate objective (the welfare of hens) as recognized in the EC Directive, and any interference with the right to property would be likely to be proportionate to the legitimate aim. As to Article 6, it is likely to be regarded as legitimate to place on the keeper of hens at least the evidential burden of leading evidence to indicate that there might be lawful authority or excuse. In our view, therefore, any interference with rights is likely to be justifiable.

49   House of Commons Bill 65 Back

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