Battery caged hens egg import ban considered

Hens at a farm in Milan
Image caption Lord Taylor said UK egg producers should not be put at a disadvantage for considering animal welfare

The UK is considering imposing an import ban on eggs from hens kept in battery cages to protect domestic producers, a peer has said.

UK producers must not be put at a competitive disadvantage when a ban on battery cages comes in next January, Food Minister Lord Taylor of Holbeach said.

Most UK egg producers will comply with the new rules.

But many EU countries, like Spain and Italy, are not expected to be ready.

It has raised fears of a flood of cheap imports of eggs and egg products.

The vast majority of UK egg producers will have switched to bigger "enriched colony cages" by the time the ban comes into effect, at a cost of £400m.

Lord Taylor said the UK was pressing the EU to bring in additional enforcement action to prevent market distortions through the export of illegal eggs, although he acknowledged that talks in Brussels on Monday had not brought about an agreement on tough enforcement action against non-compliant states.

He said: "The government has thoroughly investigated the possibility of taking unilateral action and bringing in a UK ban on imported egg and egg products produced in conventional battery cages in other member states."

The minister added that there were "very significant legal challenges" in instigating a unilateral ban, however such a move is "still on the table".

Lord Taylor said UK egg producers "must not be put at a disadvantage for leading the way on animal welfare issues".

"They should be able to operate within a level playing field across the EU," he added.

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