"Too Little, Too Late" On Battery Cages

20 December 2011
The European Commission's decision to open legal proceedings against Member States who are in the process of violating the ban on battery cages is "too little, too late", said SNP MEP Alyn Smith.

The deadline for compliance with Directive 1999/74/EC is 1st January 2012 and follows a lead in period of 13 years for egg producers to bring their production systems up to standard. Despite this, it is estimated that as many as 50 million hens in 12 Member States will not be housed in legal cages by the new year.

The European Commission has finally decided to launch infraction proceedings against those Member States who have not complied with the Directive. However, no European measures have been put in place to legally prevent the trade in illegal eggs, and Member States who wish to take unilateral action to stop illegal eggs from entering their markets have been left in an uncertain legal situation, as shown by the actions of the UK Government, who will attempt to scan imports for battery produced eggs, but who do not feel able to exclude such eggs from the UK - they will be sent for processing instead.

Alyn said:

"While today's move by the Commission is welcome, it is a case of too little, too late. We've known about the extent of the problem of non-compliant farmers and Member States for years, yet the Commission has consistently refused to take the proactive, even drastic measures needed to enforce the law and Europe's high animal welfare standards. Worse, they have not been able to broker a legally sound agreement among Member States allowing them to take their own actions to protect their producers against illegal competition. Scotland's producers, who have invested considerable sums of money in bringing their systems up to standard, will be the losers.  

"It is galling to see on the one hand sometimes overzealous EU auditor enforcement of cross compliance and sheep EID rules, which unduly punish genuine mistakes which do not threaten the integrity of the system, while at the same time moving only sluggishly to enforce primary legislation concerning a central goal of the European Union, that of animal welfare. It sends the wrong signal to producers for all future animal welfare laws, such as the ban on farrowing cages coming in 2013, and the enforcement of animal transport legislation."