Welfare of laying hens directive: implications for UK egg industry

12 December 2011

Miss Anne McIntosh MP, Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, has secured a debate on the implications for the UK’s egg industry of the European Union’s imminent ban on the production of eggs in ‘conventional cages’, commonly known as ‘battery’ cages.

The debate, on Tuesday 13 December at 11am, will provide an opportunity for members of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, together with other MPs, to question the Minister on how UK egg producers will be affected once the Directive takes effect on 1 January 2012.

The EFRA Committee produced a report into the Directive in September and has recently published on its website the Government response to that report, alongside further correspondence with Defra and the Commission. The Government has also set out its latest position in a Written Ministerial Statement [6 Dec 2011 : Column 16WS].

Speaking ahead of the debate Miss McIntosh said, “The European Commission has confirmed, in a letter to the Committee, that more than 51 million hens in at least 11 Member States are likely to remain in conventional cages when the ban comes into force on 1 January 2012. That will put UK producers, who have invested £400m to comply with the new rules, at risk of a serious competitive disadvantage.

“Many MPs believe the UK Government must take action to tackle this problem. The Written Ministerial Statement makes plain that the UK will be unable to stop imports of powdered or liquid egg produced from conventional cages. Nor will the UK be able to prevent processed foods, such as cakes or biscuits, containing egg produced in conventional cages from being sold in the UK.

“This is a feeble start for the European Union’s first Directive aimed at improving animal welfare.” T

The EFRA Committee’s report, the Government response and correspondence with Defra and the Commission are at

Notes to editors

In the EFRA committee report on the Welfare of Laying Hens Directive it was noted that it was the first piece of EU legislation intended to improve animal welfare to be implemented and was therefore likely to be seen as a test case of how serious the Commission is about tackling poor animal welfare.

The EU will shortly implement another piece of animal welfare legislation—the ban on stalls and tethers. The UK pig industry has, for several years, been at a competitive disadvantage because of its early adoption of this ban.

There is considerable concern that if the Commission fails to tackle the enforcement of the conventional cage ban in egg production, it will send a message to EU pig producers that the stalls and tethers ban can be flouted as well.

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