Conventional battery cages, in which millions of egg-laying hens are confined, are due to be banned throughout the European Union (EU) in 2012. This is good news for hens.
Although the ban was agreed in 1999, the Polish government has now proposed that the ban should be postponed, because many of their farmers are still keeping hens in cages. This proposal will be considered by the EU Agriculture Ministers at their meeting on 22 February. Compassion in World Farming is totally opposed to any postponement of the ban. We believe a 12 year phase out from 1999-2012 was surely ample time for farmers to move to higher welfare systems.
Poland's move is very dangerous. The position of the UK at the Ministers' meeting is crucial. Jim Fitzpatrick, the Defra Minister responsible for animal welfare, has stressed that the UK opposes any postponement of the cage ban. We urge him to be vigorous in opposing Poland's suggestion.
There is however a problem with the UK position. Defra has said that it would like EU law to be amended to allow the sale of battery eggs even after the cage is banned in 2012, as long as the eggs are only sold in the country where they are produced. They could not be exported to other countries within the EU. Defra's suggestion would greatly weaken the cage ban, as it would enable producers to continue keeping their hens in the (by then) illegal cages.
Compassion in World Farming and the European Coalition for Farm Animals are lobbying the EU's Agriculture Ministers. Please help us and take action for hens today.