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1. The Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) was established in 1979. Its terms of reference are to keep under review the welfare of farm animals on agricultural land, at market, in transit and at the place of slaughter, and to advise Agriculture Ministers of any legislative or other changes that may be necessary. The Council has the freedom to consider any topic falling within this remit. Our membership is at Appendix A.

2. FAWC has published three other reports concerning the welfare of hens: an Assessment of Egg Production Systems (1986); Advice to Ministers on the Handling and Transport of Poultry (1990); and The Welfare of Laying Hens in Colony Systems (1991).

3. The House of Commons Select Committee on Agriculture noted in its 1994 report on the UK Poultry Industry that FAWC had not produced a detailed report about the welfare of hens in battery cage systems. This, coupled with the fact that the European Commission planned to review the welfare of hens kept in various systems with a view to making proposals for changes to the relevant EU legislation, prompted the Council to commence a study of UK systems of egg production and to assess these on the basis of hen welfare. Accordingly, a working group of FAWC members was established and asked to provide advice to the Council. This report summarises the outcome of our study and makes recommendations to GB Agriculture Ministers.