Farmers' fears over battery hens


Soon, it seems, our chicken farmers will have to face up to the threat from illegal imports.

Robert Sturdy MEP Robert Sturdy MEP: "Without a doubt, this will affect the egg industry"

Yes, that's illegal egg imports, however unlikely an image that conjures up.

You may find it hard to believe but these are the facts: 10 years ago the European Parliament decided to outlaw battery farming. The measure is to be introduced in 2012 and everyone's had 10 years to get ready. So far so good.

Apparently not, because once again our farmers have spent millions preparing to toe the line but - and it's a big but - the same cannot be said for some of our European partners.

Start Quote

Our farmers have adapted and done the right thing and what's happened is that other countries are not following it at all”

End Quote Robert Sturdy MEP

Farmers and politicians in the East of England say it will be impossible to compete on price if millions of eggs are still being produced using the older, cheaper system. They believe they could be over-run by illegal imports or will lose markets on the continent.

'Dramatic effect'

Conservative MEP for the East of England, Robert Sturdy, said: "Without a doubt, this will affect the egg industry. We are now in a situation where our farmers have adapted and done the right thing and what's happened is that other countries are not following it at all and trying to put eggs produced in battery cages, which we've banned, back onto the market.

"Countries like Poland and Hungary have been buying our old battery cages with the intention of continuing to produce eggs under what we consider were appalling conditions, and then sell them back into the EU.

"The Commission have not answered the question as to whether or not they will be allowed to sell such eggs produced in Poland in Poland itself. It would have a dramatic effect on our markets because basically it will still put eggs back into the market in the EU."

The European Commission said: "Under the EU Treaties, if one member state considers that another has not fulfilled an obligation under the Treaties, it may refer the issue to the Court of Justice of the European Union, after having brought the matter before the Commission.

"However, both the European Parliament and the member states have called upon the Commission to adopt measures to limit the circulation of eggs which are not produced in compliance with the Laying Hens Directive, as from 1 January 2012.

"The Commission is currently carrying out a legal assessment to decide on possible initiatives in this direction, in particular as regards the substance of the measures that could be adopted and their proportionality."

Deborah McGurran Article written by Deborah McGurran Deborah McGurran Political editor, East of England

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  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    I really hope the ban happens. I'm a vegetarian that doesn't eat battery eggs because of the cruelty to the chickens that lay them. I play a competitive team sport and eggs are one of the best sources of protein there is. It would be such a luxury to be able to buy egg salad from the supermarket or have a fried egg sandwich at a local cafe without having to worry if it's freerange or not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    I don't buy battery eggs, and haven't done for at least 10 years. If possible I only buy free range British eggs. I don't think many consumers want to buy battery eggs, but what do we do about products that contain eggs or canteens? The farmers should get together and design a 'guaranteed battery free' label, and get caterers and product producers on board..



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