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USDA International Egg and Poultry

29 February 2012

International Egg and Poultry Review: EU Animal Welfare for Laying HensInternational Egg and Poultry Review: EU Animal Welfare for Laying Hens

The use of conventional cages for laying hens in the EU-27 was banned effective January 1, 2012.
USDA International Egg and Poultry

Not all Member States are in compliance with the ban; there are estimates that about 14% of hens were still in the banned cages on January 1, 2012. The United Kingdom was found to have a few farms still using battery cages on January 1, 2012, but has since come into compliance. Malta sent its report in mid-January confirming their decision to cull all hens coming from non-compliant cages, following assurances given verbally to the Commission. This communication was made in time to be struck off the list of member states against which action was to be taken. Sweden (1999), Luxembourg (2007), Austria (2009) and Germany (2010) have reported 100% conformity with the legal provisions.

On January 26, 2012 the European Commission (EC), via a letter of formal notice requesting information, called on Belgium (BE), Bulgaria (BG), Greece (EL), Spain (ES), France (FR), Italy (IT), Cyprus (CY), Latvia (LV), Hungary (HU), the Netherlands (NL), Poland (PL), Portugal (PT) and Romania (RO) to take action to address deficiencies in the implementation of EU legislation concerning the welfare of animals, and specifically to implement the ban on "un-enriched" cages for laying hens which applied as of January 1, 2012, as laid down by Directive 1999/74/EC. The EC noted that Member States who still allow the use of "un-enriched" cages cause market distortions and unfair competition.

Member States have two months to respond to the letter of formal notice under EU infringement procedures. If they fail to react satisfactorily the Commission will send a "Reasoned Opinion" requesting concerned Member States to take the necessary measures to comply with the Directive within two months.

The European Union first imposed minimum standards for laying hens in cages in 1986. Council Directive 1999/74/EC was adopted in 1999 and the limit for the transposition of Council Directive 1999/74/EC by Member States was fixed on January 1, 2002. Many Member States encountered delays, especially the then new candidate Member States, which were still negotiating the EU accession for 2004 or 2007.

The time frame for the implementation of the ban on the use of conventional cages for laying hens was declared feasible at a meeting of major European stakeholders in January 2011. The Commission asked Member States to send data on the number of laying hens, categorized by farming system, by April 1, 2011. The data revealed that some Member States would still have laying hens in un-enriched cages at the end of the year. Several Member States did not return any data to the Commission.

In an October 20, 2011 EUROPA press release, Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner Dalli said, "The Commission does not intend to postpone the deadline of the ban and it will not hesitate to start infringement procedures in case of non-compliance." The Commissioner also said experts from the Food and Veterinary Office will start visiting targeted Member States as of January 2012. Any decisions on infringement procedures will be based on the outcomes of these audits.

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