13 nations miss the European Union deadline for phasing out battery cages

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  January/February 2012:

BRUSSELS,  DUBLIN–Allowed 13 years to phase out battery caging for laying hens,  egg farmers in 13 European Union nations nonetheless missed the January 1,  2012 deadline for compliance with the 1999 EU battery cage ban.

In Ireland,  where farmers were mostly compliant,  “the Irish Farmers Association reported to the media that up to 100,000 birds would have to be slaughtered ‘early,’ as 10 farmers did not have the required cages to comply with new legislation,”  e-mailed Vegan Education Centre of Ireland diet and lifestyle coach Sandra Higgins to the U.S.-based organization United Poultry Concerns.

“Bernie Wright of the Alliance For Animal Rights approached IFA poultry chair Alo Mohan,” Higgins continued,  “and offered 400 homes for the hens in order to save them from slaughter. Ms. Wright also offered to match the payment the slaughterhouse would have made to the farmer. Mohan attempted to secure the safe future of the birds by approaching the farmers with this offer,”  as the AFAR web site affirmed,  but “On the evening of January 4,  2012,  Irish Television News announced that most of the birds had been slaughtered.”

Wright and Mohan tried unsuccessfully the next day to save the remaining hens.

“Thirteen EU member states have been warned they face legal action because of their failure to comply with the imminent EU battery cage egg ban,”  reported Alistair Driver of The Farmers Guardian as the January 1 deadline approached.

“EU Health Commissioner John Dalli has told Members of the European Parliament that letters have already been sent to those member states that have made ‘little or no effort’ to conform, informing them they will be taken to court.  Dalli also confirmed that European Commission inspection teams are ready to go ‘all out’ from January 1 to collect evidence of non-compliance to back up prosecutions,”  Driver wrote.

“While almost all British egg producers will be compliant,”  wrote London Independent consumer affairs correspondent Martin Hickman, “many European countries will continue to keep battery hens.  Battery cages are already banned in Germany,  Austria,  the Netherlands,  and Sweden,”  Hick-man noted.  “Six other states including Portugal, Poland and Romania admit they will not be ready,  while France,  Spain and Italy,  among others,  do not know or will not say whether they will meet the deadline.”

The new “enriched” cages,  “though still disliked by animal welfare groups,  are a third more spacious per bird,  and have perches, litter and darkened laying areas,”  Hickman explained.  If compliance is not enforced, “British producers and the government fear that U.K. poultry farmers,  who have spent £400 million upgrading their cages,  will lose out to cheaper, illegal imports,”  Hickman wrote, recalling that,  “After Britain banned sow stalls in 1999,”  14 years ahead of the deadline for EU compliance,  “retailers and processors bought more pork from abroad,  with the result that the British pig herd shrank 40% between 2000 and 2008.”

The agricultural agencies of many of the non-compliant nations sought right up to the deadline to delay enforcement of the battery cage ban,  or to do away with it entirely.

“Investments and efforts already made–as well as consumer trust–must not be undermined,” Dalli told Charlie Dunmore of Reuters in October 2011.  But “The problem has more than one dimension,”  Dalli continued.  “It has an economic dimension in the countries that are producing these eggs–some of them in deep crisis.  It also has a consumer dimension in terms of the supply,  demand and pricing of eggs. What I am pushing to do,”  Dalli said,  “is to contain eggs that are not produced according to the new directive within their own territory, usable only for processing.”  In other words, non-compliant producers could continue to sell eggs locally for manufacture into cooked or baked goods,  but would be excluded from the more lucrative international market for eggs in the shell.
“The ban on battery cages is seen as an important test case for the EU’s implementation of a prohibition on the use of sow stalls from January 1,  2013,”  Dunmore finished.

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