THE European Commission has effectively issued final warnings to 10 member states that have still not complied with the EU battery cage ban introduced at the start of this year.
The Commission has sent a ‘reasoned opinion’ to Belgium, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Cyprus, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland and Portugal, which are still allowing the use of conventional, or ‘unenriched’, cages nearly six months after they were outlawed.
If the member states fail to convince the Commission within two months that they taken the necessary measures to ensure full compliance with EU law, they could be referral to the EU Court of Justice as the next step in lengthy infringement procedure.
The Commission said it welcomed the efforts made by the Member States which have complied with the rules, which include the UK.
However, it said full compliance by all member states was ‘essential to avoid market distortions and unfair competition’.
“Member States who still allow the use of ‘un-enriched’ cages put businesses that invested in complying with the new measures at a disadvantage. To demonstrate compliance, Member States will need to show that all those establishments still using un-enriched cages, have either been transformed or closed,” the Commission said.
The Commission’s actions have been dismissed by Conservative MEPs as ‘too light and too late’. Conservative Agriculture spokesman Julie Girling said British farmers had invested millions of pounds upgrading their operations to meet the new welfare rules by installing enriched cages but ‘now faced financial disaster through being undercut by continental cheats’.
She said the lack of a ‘swift and firm response’ from Brussels has ‘clearly led some foreign producers to think they can continue cheating the system unchallenged’. “It is long past the time for ‘reasoned responses’ and time instead for tough and rigorous enforcement,” she said.
“These key animal welfare rules came into force in January, but we have known they were coming for fully 12 years. Yet six months on farmers in these 10 countries have done nothing - and their national governments have stood by. Every day that passes without decisive action is another day when British egg-producers face loss of their livelihoods because of unfair competition.”
Di Peeling, director of public affairs at Compassion in World Farming said: “This continual flouting of the law is completely unacceptable and there are no adequate excuses for keeping hens in these inhumane cages.
“I am delighted that the European Commission is continuing to enforce the ban on the barren battery cage ban and fully support their issuing of reasoned opinions today to the 10 lawbreaking nations.”
The battery cage ban
As from 1 January 2012, Directive 1999/74/EC required that all laying hens must be kept in “enriched cages” with extra space to nest, scratch and roost, or in alternative systems. According to the Directive, cages can be used only if they provide each hen with at least 750 cm² of cage area, a nest-box, litter, perches and claw-shortening devices, allowing the hens to satisfy their biological and behavioural needs.
by Alistair Driver
by Alistair Driver