Research released today has found that chickens have the ability to feel empathy, an emotion long thought to be a defining human trait.Compassion in World Farming, the leading charity for farm animal welfare, applauds the University of Bristol’s Animal Welfare and Behaviour research group’s recent findings that domestic chickens display signs of empathy – the ability to feel the emotional state of another. In light of these findings, Compassion in World Farming is calling for supporters of the charity’s Big Move campaign to ensure the proposed ban on barren battery cages across the EU goes ahead in 2012. Typically in Europe, four or five hens are crammed into each barren battery cage. These cages are so small the hens are denied their most basic behavioural needs such as roosting, dust-bathing, scratching for food and even stretching their wings. This causes obvious stress and the lack of exercise makes hens more likely to suffer from weak bones and bone breakages.Despite the ban being agreed by the European Union back in 1999, the Polish government is calling for a delay on the ban, which could undermine the entire European-wide ban going ahead on schedule and see hundreds of millions of egg-laying hens continue to live out their lives imprisoned in these cages. Philip Lymbery, Chief Executive of Compassion in World farming says: "This is yet more evidence demonstrating that hens are not only sentient - capable of feeling pain and suffering themselves - but can also recognise feelings in one another. It also underscores the need to treat farm animals with compassion and respect, rather than caging, cramming or confining them on factory farms. We can all do our bit to help end animal suffering by choosing meat and eggs from animals kept in higher welfare systems such as free range and organic. Please support our Big Move campaign to help millions of hens across Europe break free from the cruel confinement of these cages."