Infringement proceedings on sow stalls begin

In this week's meeting of the European Parliament's Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy Tonio Borg has confirmed that infringement proceedings against Member States that are still flouting pig welfare requirements have officially begun.

Alyn has reiterated his call for tougher action, including closing the borders to exports of product from non compliant countries, and considerably bigger fines against the member states than those envisaged.

The Commissioner also confirmed that those countries still behind on the full implementation of the legislation (which should have been completed at the start of this year) have claimed that financial pressures have made it more difficult for producers to meet the rules. Nevertheless, Commissioner Borg refused to accept such claims, stating instead that Member States originally committed to meeting these requirements "ten years ago".

Speaking after the meeting, Alyn said:

"The Commissioner is doing his job, and doing it methodically, so I welcome the proceedings. But a pattern emerges, hard on the heels of the battery hens debacle, the Commission is in danger of giving the impression they will let member states away with delay.

"Scotland's pig farmers have long been compliant with these new rules, and it is absolutely unacceptable that they are getting punished for other Member States' tardiness in implementing this legislation. The phase-in period was long enough - perhaps too long - so there can be no acceptable excuse and I am glad the Commissioner also recognised this.

"Infringement proceedings are the most substantial tool in the Commission's box for pushing Member States to meet the requirements, and so I am pleased to see that these are now officially underway. All the same, it is approaching the end of February now and so I have to wonder why has it taken so long for these to get underway? We already had reports of likely non-compliance late last year and so more should have been done sooner.

"Between this and the battery cage saga, we have a lot we could learn. Long phase in periods have been systematically exploited in order to pinch as much from the penny as possible, and so going forward I think we need to reassess how we measure ongoing progress towards full compliance if we wish to avoid these situations from reoccurring in the future."