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Activists demand better conditions for hens

The Animal Freedom NGO says Latvia's largest egg producer Balticovo is treating egg-laying hens cruelly and has released graphic photos and videos taken in Balticovo's farms. The company meanwhile on Monday said it has fully adopted the European Union's animal welfare standards, spending more than €30m in the process.

WARNING: This story includes graphic images that may upset some readers.

In September animal rights activists documented how egg laying hens are kept at Balticovo farms in Madona, Daugavpils and Iecava.

Photos and a video show the animals in a sorry state with some dead birds in a state of putrefaction seen beside hens laying eggs for human consumption, the organization said.

"Eggs laid in cages are an unethical product that clearly goes against the values of society," said Aivars Andersons, head of Animal Freedom.

The minimum requirements for keeping egg laying hens include a perch at least 15 cm in length, a food tray 12 cm in length and a suitable nest and bedding. The NGO thinks that the minimum requirements have not been met. 

The organization asks to not buy eggs of caged hens and to sign an online petition against keeping hens in cages.

While Balticovo representative Armands Šterns told the press that recently a film group had entered company premises, "showing where the company should improve – we have already considered how we can improve our work even more."
 
Balticovo is planning to gradually increase the number of hens kept outside. Currently about 2% of the eggs sold in Latvia are cage-free and barn eggs. However cage eggs are cheaper than cage-free or barn eggs.
 
Balticovo wants to become the first large Latvian egg producer to start selling organic eggs.
 
A company representative said that Balticovo has "adopted all the new hen welfare standards, including ensuring more space for the hens." Balticovo says it has spent more than €30m to meet animal welfare standards.

LETA reports that last year Balticovo produced 620 million eggs, up 9% from 2014, with exports accounting for 65% of total turnover. 

Balticovo market share in Latvia is about 40%.

Balticovo is 95-% owned BCO, a company that belongs to several Latvian individuals.

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