Farm groups call on EC to act on bad eggs – Farming online
European commissioners have ruled that there will be no exemptions from the new cage regulations coming into force on 1st January 2012. The Commission said it would not privilege any member state with an extension if they do not meet the new specifications for enriched cages in time.
At the latest estimate, up to 13 states are expected to miss the deadline and continue producing illegal eggs after the new rules come into force. The Commission estimates that 17 million birds will still be housed illegally in January; however, the British Egg Industry Council put the figure at 83million, around 23 per cent of the EU flock.
As the ban, which represents a landmark in European animal welfare legislation, has been introduced over a 12 year period, the Commission said it would not extend the deadline after some states requested a further 6 month grace period to comply. However, the EC still has no specific proposal for dealing with states that break the law.
Commissioners said that, if, as states including the UK and Germany which meet the new guidelines, have suggested, there is to be any trade restriction, it would have to be agreed upon my member states’ governments. Industry representatives in the UK have called for a strengthening of the EU Food and Veterinary Office to ensure that a robust monitoring system is in place to enforce the ban.
Charles Bourns, NFU poultry board chairman, explained the need for stringent measures from the Commission, “British egg farmers have spent around £400million on upgrading their farms to meet these new standards and there is a real threat that all this effort could be for nothing if they are undercut by cheap imports from countries which are still producing eggs in lower welfare systems.”
Speaking after a meeting with senior commissioners in Brussels on Wednesday, Mr Bourns said, “We have asked the Commission to implement an intra-community trade ban on illegal cage eggs to avoid compliant producers being undermined. Admittedly there could be difficulties with the traceability of imported eggs and egg products, and liquid egg will be even harder to police once removed from the shell.”
He continued, “The powers of the Food and Veterinary Office should be strengthened to ensure all member states have robust inspection procedures in place and that all EU egg products are fully traceable. We have also told the Commission to initiate infraction procedures against member states with non-compliant producers.”
Animal Welfare organisation Compassion in World Farming also called on the European Commission to act and ensure all member states were compliant by 1st January. At the beginning of the month, Compassion’s chief policy advisor Peter Stevenson said, “Member states have had since 1999 to prepare for the ban on barren battery cages. That is more than enough time to make the necessary changes. It is essential the EU stands firm and puts pressure on national governments to make sure their farmers are ready,”