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From Britain to Taiwan: Helping hens wherever they need us

Every year the BHWT saves approximately 60,000 hens from slaughter across Great Britain. But we also help hens wherever they’re in need by supporting like-minded charities in other countries and helping to raise awareness of the issues facing commercial chickens.

In 2021, we were contacted by the Environment & Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST), a non-profit, non-governmental organisation that advocates for better welfare for companion animals, farm animals, wildlife, and experimental animals, as well as engaging on environmental issues.

This resulted in our founder Jane Howorth releasing an editorial with EAST to Taiwanese press, helping to raise awareness not just of the BHWT but of commercial chickens in that country.

We thought we’d reciprocate and spoke to EAST campaigner Jonathon Tree about the work of the charity and the animal welfare issues in Taiwan…

Can you tell us about the culture in Taiwan when it comes to animal welfare?

Taiwan has come a long way in terms of awareness of companion animal issues. The President is famously a cat devotee, and last year the number of pets in Taiwan overtook the number of children under 15.

However, many people are still learning about the plight animals face in intensive farming, research, and other areas. While progress is being made, there is still a long way to go.

From Britain to Taiwan hens

What signs are you seeing that attitudes are changing in consumers and industry in terms of animal welfare and ethics in the food chain?

The shoots of change are evident, whether it be the items sold on supermarket shelves or the receptiveness of farmers to talk with us about animal welfare issues. Several major retailers have committed to end their sales of cage eggs by 2025, and consumers are increasingly looking for products that meet certain animal welfare standards.

When we set out more than 20 years ago, few people took us seriously when we said we should pay attention to the way animals are treated in the food system. On a visit to a dairy cow slaughterhouse, we witnessed a farmer tying a rope around the neck of a cow who was unable to descend from the back of a truck. He then fixed the rope to a post and drove the vehicle forward, lurching the frightened animal from the truck bed onto the concrete below.

While this type of scene is rarer today, there are many forms of systemic cruelty that still need to be addressed.

Can you tell us specifically about chickens and the way they are treated?

Approximately 85% of laying hens in Taiwan are still confined to barren battery cages. The suffering of these birds is exacerbated by the widespread lack of temperature control in Taiwan’s hot and humid summers, and the appalling practice of forced moulting (which sees hens deprived of food for up to two weeks to stimulate egg production).

How did you come to hear about the BHWT and why did you want to get in touch with us?

We came across an article that described the journey of a hen rehomed by the British Hen Welfare Trust, and the mission of the Trust. We were inspired by the enormity of the endeavor – providing new homes to hundreds of thousands of hens – and the way it is fundamentally reshaping how people think about chickens in the UK.

We believed if fast-food executives and the public had the opportunity to uncover a different side of these special animals, they would reconsider how they purchase their eggs.

From Britain to Taiwan group 2

What are your goals as a charity? And what are your specific aims when it comes to chickens in Taiwan?

Our mission is to reset the relationship between humans and animals in Taiwan. We do this by exposing causes of animal exploitation and working to change the systems at the heart of these problems.

When it comes to chickens, we believe that all hens should have the opportunity to fulfill their natural behaviours. Our first goal is to free all hens from cages and achieve a ban on the use of battery cages in Taiwan.

From Britain to Taiwan group

How optimistic are you that the lives of commercial chickens in Taiwan will improve?

We are on the right track. More and more consumers are aware of how their eggs are produced and making kinder choices at the checkout.

However, many companies claim to practice sustainable sourcing while failing to be transparent with customers about where their eggs really come from. We continue to demand food companies in Taiwan keep up with consumer expectations and implement policies that genuinely safeguard animal welfare.   

Visit our Worldwide Impact page to find out more about how we’re helping hens across the globe.