In a victory for animal welfare, the European Court of Justice has ruled against Italy for not upholding the EU’s barren battery cage ban.
The country was still non-compliant with the rules more than 18 months after the ban came in on 1 January 2012.
The ruling marks the end of the European Commission’s action against Italy to enforce the law. The Commission was forced to take Italy to court after initial efforts did not seem to have the desired effect, with 12 million hens still in the illegal cages at the end of 2012.
It is clear from the decision notice that Italy did not even deny the law was being broken, the government’s representatives limiting themselves to the incredibly weak argument that there wasn’t enough time to prosecute non-compliant businesses.
“What an absurd excuse,” says Annamaria Pisapia, Director of CIWF Italia, adding: “Is Italy saying it can’t enforce the law in its own territory? The country had 13 years to prepare for the ban. What was lacking was the political will, which was cast aside in favour of the interests of those who stood to gain economically from exploiting the hens.
"Simply put, it was more lucrative to continue using barren battery cages where hens could be crammed in more tightly.”
The Laying hens Directive, agreed in 1999, was the first European legislation aimed expressly at improving animal welfare and getting rid of a cruel farming system, the barren battery cage, in which hens could not even spread their wings.
Annamaria adds: “Compassion is clear that no animal should be raised in a cage and, while a marginal improvement, the so-called enriched cages that are still allowed under EU law are unacceptable.
"That said, the Laying hens Directive, which this organisation fought for over many years, was a welcome step forward for animal welfare in Europe.
“We should congratulate the European Commission for ensuring the law is enforced, despite pressure from some parts not to. The fact that this ruling comes after Italy has finally complied with the law, should not take away from this fact.
The principle that animal welfare laws should be applied like any other law has been upheld here. We hope that Italy's politicians now understand this.”