EU hens illegally caged

07 February 2013

Compassion understands that there are now only two countries breaking EU law by continuing to keep hens in barren battery cages, a practice outlawed on 1st January 2012.

This is welcome news, given that 14 nations were non-compliant when the law came into force

But more than a year after the law came into force, we are calling for urgent action over the appalling lack of progress in Greece and Italy to implement the Laying Hens Directive, 14 years after it was agreed on by all EU member states.

Annamaria Pisapia, Head of our Italian office, says: "In Italy there is a lot of talk about the Greek economy and many people are worried that Italy will go the same way."

"Well, to our shame, Italy is dead last when it comes to getting rid of cruel barren battery cages. Italy accounts for the majority of the 20 million laying hens estimated to still be in cages in the EU."

Compassion's CEO Philip Lymbery says: "It is shameful that millions of the EU's hens are still in illegal cages. The EU has built a reputation for raising animal welfare standards and individual nations should not be allowed to undermine this."

"As well as action from governments and the European Commission, food companies should be checking their supply chains to make sure none of the eggs they use come from illegal systems. There should be no market for these suppliers."

All EU nations but Italy and Greece have now moved to consign barren battery cages to history. They need to do this as soon as possible.

Olga Kikou, Compassion's European Affairs Manager, says the situation in Greece is lamentable: "Over ten years have passed since Greek farmers found out that they would have to convert to higher welfare systems for their hens.

"The barren battery cage ban has been in effect for over a year now, yet many Greek farmers are not compliant or showing they will comply. The Greek state has to take strict measures to ensure that it does not set a bad example for Europe and to prevent sanctions which the Greek people will have to pay."

So called "enriched" cages, which allow more space per bird and additions like a minimal nesting area, are still permitted under the Laying Hens Directive. Compassion is against all cages for laying hens but heralded the Directive as a major step forward for animal welfare in the EU.

Take action

Current EU law requires that shell eggs must be labelled to show whether the hens are kept in cages, barns, free range or organic systems. The Labelling Matters campaign is calling for honest method of production labelling on all products of animal origin - find out more here.


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