Light touch on battery-cage rules lets down British farmers
Posted, June 21, 2012 @ 17:00
European Commission measures intended to put pressure on 10 countries, all of which are defying new regulations banning battery-hen cages, were criticised by Conservative MEPs today for being too light and too late.
Conservative Agriculture spokesman Julie Girling said British farmers had invested millions of pounds upgrading their operations to meet the new welfare rules. Now they faced financial disaster through being undercut by continental cheats.
The Commission announced today a first step towards legal action against nine member states for failing to implement new welfare rules. The new regulation bans all hen cages unless they are of an "enriched" type which allows more space as well as a nest-box, litter and perches.
Commission lawyers have sent a "reasoned response" to "Belgium, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Cyprus, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland and Portugal which are still allowing the use of un-enriched cages for laying hens. Sending a reasoned opinion is a step in the procedure before referral to the EU Court of Justice.
Mrs Girling said: "These key animal welfare rules came into force in January, but we have known they were coming for fully 12 years.
"We have been warning long and loud that thousands of continental farmers would fail to meet the new requirements. We told the Commission it would need to act with speed and resolve to make sure British farmers - who have done the right thing by animal welfare and the law - would not lose out.
"Yet six months on farmers in these 10 countries have done nothing - and their national governments have stood by. Every day that passes without decisive action is another day when British egg-producers face loss of their livelihoods because of unfair competition.
"Lack of a swift and firm response has clearly led some foreign producers to think they can continue cheating the system unchallenged.
"It is long past the time for 'reasoned responses' and time instead for tough and rigorous enforcement."