Green MEP calls for swift action to end keeping hens in barren battery cages

9 March 2012

Keith Taylor and Green MEP for London, Jean Lambert, have called on the European Commission to take swift action to ensure a new law which bans hens being kept in barren battery cages from 1 January next year is enforced across the EU.

The European Parliament agreed back in 1999 to outlaw keeping hens in conventional battery cages for egg production by 1 January 2012. All producers in the UK are expected to be ready for the new law, however around a third of cage eggs from elsewhere in the EU are not expected to come from systems that comply with the new legislation.

Keith said "The EU laying hens directive gave farmers a generous 12 years to phase out the barren battery cage, therefore there is no excuse for member states not to be ready. If the European Commission fails to act on non-compliant egg producers it means around 84 million hens will still be kept in illegal barren battery cages, which is unacceptable.

"Failure to act may also result in illegal eggs ending up on our shelves. This is unfair to consumers, disadvantages those farmers who have invested in the new law and of course lets down those hens, which the EU agreed to protect many years ago."

In a letter to Commissioner Dalli Keith and Jean call for the European Commission to:

* work with member states which are expected to have non-compliant farms to ensure those farmers are unable to continue in egg production from 1 January 2012.

* take swift action with meaningful financial penalties against any countries with non-compliant egg producers after 1 January 2012

* to implement an intra community trade ban to stop any illegal eggs that could end up on the market being traded outside the countries where they were laid.

While the ban outlaws ‘conventional' barren battery cages, it still allows ‘enriched' battery cages. Confined to a wire cage, hens are kept in small groups, with less usable space than an A4 piece of paper each. Limited facilities will now be provided for scratching, nesting and perching, but the hens will still be unable to properly carry out many of their natural behaviours, like dustbathing and foraging.

The Green Party opposes all forms of intensive farming and believes the so-called enriched battery cage should also be banned.

To ensure you're eating eggs from non-caged hens, check the label for:

* Freedom Food
* Free-range
* Barn
* Organic

And don't forget ingredients! Eggs can be found in thousands of products such as mayonnaise, cakes, quiches and fresh pasta. Foods made with free-range eggs will often be advertised - just check the ingredients - or ask!

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