EC pledge on battery cage ban

Posted on 22 January 2011

The European Commission has said it intends sticking to its promise to ban battery cages for egg production from the end of this year (2011).

The assurance has been given to MEP Alyn Smith by Bernard van Goethem, the acting director-general of the commission’s health and consumer affairs directorate. Mr Smith said the pledge was welcome, but expressed fears several member states will flout the embargo and continue to produce eggs from the start of 2012 in a system which by then will be deemed illegal as well as cruel.

If these eggs are allowed to be traded around the EU, then it would undermine producers, including those in Scotland, who have replaced their battery systems with the larger enriched cages demanded by the legislation which entered the statute books in 1999, or who have switched to barn or free-range.

Mr Smith said the fear remained that some EU states will seek exemptions from the rules, although several previous bids to the European Agriculture Council to delay the legislation have failed. He added: “My concern remains what will happen to those eggs that are produced illegally after 1st January 2012. With figures stating that as much as 29% of EU egg and poultry meat production could become illegal if the standards set down in the 1999 regulation are not met, we cannot consider trashing so much food.”

The commission has said it is exploring possible options to deal with this scenario, but the European Parliament has told it the EU-wide trading of these eggs would be wrong. It has asked countries are given the legal powers to ban imports from other member states flouting the rules.

A meeting on Wednesday in Brussels will discuss what happens to eggs produced from battery systems after they are supposedly outlawed. Mr Smith said he would be interested to see the possible solutions, but added he would continue the fight to see Scottish egg producers and high welfare standards protected. The parliament has made its opinion clear in a resolution backed by 459 MEPs which says the commission must stick by the ban and oppose any attempt to grant concessions.

MEP George Lyon said it remained scandalous that 83 million eggs, nearly a third of EU production, are still likely to be produced from battery cages from the start of next year. He added: “European producers have had 10 years to make the transition to the new standards, but it is quite clear that many countries are simply ignoring the deadline.” He said with Scottish producers having invested millions of pounds to upgrade their systems, the commission needed to take tough and robust action against any nation flouting the ban. That should include naming and shaming those who are not compliant by the deadline and taking legal action against them.

NFU Scotland communications director Bob Carruth said it was clear several European states were dragging their heels. He welcomed the parliament’s intervention and its tough demands on the commission. He too urged the commission to make sure those producers who comply with the law change are not undermined by those farms who continue to use battery cages. He also urged the commission to allow trade bans to be imposed on eggs from illegal production systems.

By Joe Watson, published: 15 Jan 2011, (Original article since removed).


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