A third of Europe’s egg producers will not comply with the new welfare standards due in 2012, resulting in unfair competition for UK egg producers who have spent around £400 million to acheive required standards.
A third of Europe’s egg producers will not comply with the new welfare standards due in 2012, resulting in unfair competition for UK egg producers who have spent around £400 million to acheive required standards and improve conditions for laying hens.
Conventional barren battery cages will be banned under EU legislation, which comes into force on January 1, 2012.
However, a report by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has revealed that, while UK producers have spent millions preparing to meet new minimum welfare standards, around a third of egg production across the rest of Europe will not comply with The Welfare of Laying Hens Directive when it comes into force.
Worse, the EFRA report claims the EU Commission has shown “little enthusiasm” for establishing enforcement measures in the face of certain non-compliance by several Member States.
Launching the report, committee chair Anne McIntosh MP warned: “The European Commission has just not woken up to the impact that non-compliance with this legislation will have on egg producers in the UK and across Europe.
“UK egg producers have spent around £400 million to improve conditions for laying hens. That money will be wasted and UK producers will be left at a competitive disadvantage if cheaper, illegal and non-compliant shell eggs and egg products can be imported to the UK from other European countries.”
The report was welcomed by the RSPCA, which called on the European Commission and UK government to ban eggs from non-compliant producers in an effort to ensure that illegal eggs do not find their way onto the shelves in the UK next year.
Alice Clark, senior scientific officer at the RSPCA, said it is “vital that a rigorous inspection process is introduced” as well as “meaningful penalties for non-compliance” in an effort to stop producers using illegal barren battery cages as quickly as possible.
The RSPCA also supports many of the recommendations made in the EFRA report, which calls for:
- An intra-EU ban on the trade of illegal eggs to protect British egg producers and consumers;
- DEFRA to press the EU Commission to initiate infraction proceedings against Member States where caged egg producers remain non-compliant once the directive comes into force.
However, the report claims the EU Commission has “shown little enthusiasm for establishing tough enforcement measures in the face of certain non-compliance by several Member States”, claiming it seemed to have “failed to grasp the very serious consequences” for compliant egg producers if full implementation of the directive is not vigorously pursued.
The report therefore recommends that DEFRA work with other concerned Member States to make the case for swift action by the EU Commission.
- Read the EFRA Committee report: The Welfare of Laying Hens Directive – Implications for the egg industry
- For more on the RSPCA’s work on promoting the welfare of laying hens, click here.