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Barren battery cages to be banned

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7:11am 14th January 2011

In one year’s time on 1st January 2012, legislation will come into force banning barren battery cages across the European Union (EU). This means that from that date, all egg laying hens in the EU must either be kept in ‘enriched’ cages or in more humane alternative systems such as barn, free-range or organic.

This achievement is often hailed as the single biggest legal victory for animal welfare in recent history.

Farmers in the UK are on course to comply with the ban by January 2012, with 57%* of hens no longer kept in barren cages. However, some EU countries look likely to miss the deadline due to not having made the necessary adjustments in time for the deadline; Compassion in World Farming will be using the countdown year to target the Agriculture Ministers in these idle states to ensure they do not undermine the good work of the proactive EU countries.

Compassion is launching its “Big Move” campaign in January 2011 to target Ministers in Spain, Italy, Poland and other key countries which are still looking very unlikely to meet the 2012 deadline.

We welcome the fact that the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is committed to the ban on battery cages coming into force as scheduled on 1 January 2012. 

However, we are totally opposed to Defra’s attempt to get the ban on the sale of battery eggs weakened to permit, after 1 January 2012, the sale of illegally produced battery eggs in the country of production.  This could lead to the unravelling of the cage ban.  Legalising the sale of battery eggs would result in farmers in countries such as Spain having little incentive to move away from battery cages.  Moreover, this would lead to the absurd situation whereby the use of battery cages would be illegal but the sale of battery eggs would be legal.

Compassion’s Director of Public Affairs, Joyce D’Silva, said:

“EU egg producers have been given a very generous period of 12 years in which to phase out the use of battery cages. There is no legitimate reason for them not to meet the deadline. Working with 23 of our animal welfare partner groups throughout the EU, we shall be putting huge public pressure on the idle countries so that all hens get a better life as soon as possible – and so that those countries and farmers who have complied with the ban are fairly treated. All governments and farmers in the EU need to realize that to keep hens in barren battery cages will be an illegal act from January 1st 2012.”

Compassion in World Farming’s experienced investigators will be visiting farmers in problem countries from January 2012. They will gather film evidence and produce written reports that will be submitted to the Commission, the Member State authorities and the media in order to highlight and bring to a rapid end any non-compliance.

British consumers voted with their shopping trolleys and bought higher welfare eggs this year (April 2010) despite the fear that the recession would hit sales of higher welfare products. Compassion in World Farming revealed figures (April 2010) showing that sales of higher welfare eggs have continued to increase.

Sales of free range, barn and organic eggs increased to 66.4% of the total spend on eggs in the twelve months to 22 March 2010, compared with 62.2% the year before. This means that the majority of shell eggs sold (52.6% by volume) are now from hens that are free from cages compared with 47.3% in the same period in 2008-9.

* According to figures for 2009 submitted to the European Commission by each Member State.


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