A CALL to stop selling eggs from caged battery farm hens was the latest protest to roll up at the doors of Ilkley's Tesco supermarket.

While the national chain, with its Springs Lane store, has been the subject of intense opposition to plans for a bigger Ilkley supermarket in recent months, it was the turn of animal welfare organisation Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) to lobby bosses on Friday.

Local representatives of CIWF came to the Ilkley supermarket to hand over a letter asking Tesco to make a commitment to go cage-free' with all shell eggs sold in store by 2012.

CIWF area contact Heather Parry handed over the letter in person to Ilkley store trading manager, Dave Vincent.

Customers visiting the supermarket were also asked to sign postcards of support to hand in at the supermarket, and organisers of the protest say the overwhelming majority of those asked agreed to do this.

The keeping of hens in battery cages - small wire cages which often give the birds a floor space smaller than an A4 sheet of paper - is to be banned in the EU from 2012. CIWF says there is extensive scientific evidence to show that the battery cage system is cruel, and that there is increasing public support for free-range farming.

Handing over the letter in Ilkley took place as part of CIWF's Tesco Action Week, from November 3 to 11. Although most large supermarket chains have made commitments to ending the sale of battery farm eggs since the EU's ban was announced, Tesco, the largest UK supermarket chain, has yet to make any such commitment.

The campaign in Ilkley showed little sign of the company changing its stance.

Heather Chapman said: "It was disappointing that although it was several weeks ago that Tesco had agreed to meet with CIWF, they had no response to give on the day. However, Dave Vincent assured the group that their letter and postcards would be sent to the supermarket's head office. The CIWF group would like to thank the management of Ilkley Tesco for agreeing to meet them in this way."

But the organisation was pleased to learn on Friday that the British Government plans to implement the ban on battery cages in 2012, regardless what happens in the EU as a whole.

Lord Rooker announced at the Egg and Poultry Industry Conference last week that the UK ban on battery cages would go ahead despite opposition from the egg industry. CIWF estimates that the ban could free as many as 20 million hens from battery cages every year.

CIWF says the conditions in battery farms causes immense psychological and physical suffering to the birds, which are unable to exercise or carry out many important natural behaviours.

It says recent scientific research also found that eggs from battery cages were significantly more likely to carry salmonella than organic or free-range flocks.

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