Action by DEFRA secretary of state Caroline Spelman has prevented other EU ministers from delaying a ban on battery cages for laying hens.

Action by DEFRA secretary of state Caroline Spelman has prevented other EU ministers from delaying a ban on battery cages for laying hens.

In a meeting of agriculture ministers on February 21, Mrs Spelman opposed a proposal to delay a ban of battery cages. Ministers from several countries, including Germany, France, Spain and the Netherlands, followed Mrs Spelman’s lead and rejected the proposal.

Speaking after the meeting Mrs Spelman said: “To delay implementing this ban would be enormously unfair to all the poultry keepers in the UK and other countries around Europe who have worked so hard to stop using battery cages.”

She added: “The UK industry has worked hard and made significant investments to convert out of battery cages ahead of the European deadline – so it wouldn’t be fair to them to have to compete with eggs from other European countries that haven’t converted.”

The UK has consistently backed the implementation of a Europe-wide ban on battery cages from next year. From 2012, British farmers will only use, as a minimum, better welfare cages that provide laying hens more space to move, perches and nest boxes. Currently used free-range, barn and organic systems will also be permitted.

Welcoming the news, BVA president Harvey Locke said: “We are delighted that the UK’s robust opposition to a proposed delay in enforcing the ban on battery cages for laying hens convinced EU agriculture ministers that the ban must come fully into force on January 1, 2012, as planned. This measure will improve the welfare of around 250 million egg-laying hens across the EU.

“Egg producers in the UK, and indeed in many other European countries, have worked hard to convert out of battery cages ahead of the European deadline and have invested considerable sums converting their systems to ensure they meet the strictest possible welfare standards.

“The egg industry throughout Europe has had 12 years to prepare for this change in law and there is no excuse to further continue the suffering of egg laying hens being reared in cramped, barren, battery cages,” he added.

 

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