Tameside Lib Dem Euro-MP Chris Davies has received a personal assurance from the European Commission that countries which do not comply with new welfare rules for laying hens will be closely investigated and, if appropriate, taken to court.
Under intense political pressure from Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament, the Commission confirmed its commitment to put in place infringement procedures as of January 2012.
Davies met with EU Commissioner Dalli to push for swift actions against any country ignoring the new EU ban on battery cages.
Davies said, “It is great news that the Commission refuses to postpone the legal deadline for a ban of battery cages for chicken and will hold to account countries who try and cheat.
“The Commission must also support those countries such as the UK who are using every means at their disposal to try and ban illegally produced eggs from entering their markets.
“Egg farmers in Britain and other countries that have met the new standards must not face competition from those with less concern for animal welfare.
“Until a full ban on illegal eggs and egg products is put in place, consumers can take care to only buy products labelled free range or organic with regard to their egg content.”
According to EU Health and Consumer Commissioner John Dalli, inspection teams will start their investigations in targeted EU countries as of January 2012 to collect evidence of non-compliance to back up the prosecution when it goes to court.
Davies pointed out that the Commissioner will be limited in what he can do. Davies said, “When I met him, John Dalli pointed out that he has no police force and no army. He only has court processes and sometimes these take time!”
In the UK, Defra has revealed that 30 UK farms still use battery cages for up to 500,000 laying hens. However, the Government announced that it expected full compliance with the new hen welfare law by February and would prosecute any farmers using battery cages after this date.