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Jean Lambert London's Green MEP

Green MEP calls for swift action to end keeping hens in barren battery cages

Green MEP for London, Jean Lambert and Green MEP for the South East, Keith Taylor, have called on the European Commission to take swift action to ensure a new law which bans hens being kept in barren battery cages from 1 January next year is enforced across the EU.

The European Parliament agreed back in 1999 to outlaw keeping hens in conventional battery cages for egg production by 1st January 2012 {1}.  All producers in the UK are expected to be ready for the new law, however around a third of cage eggs from elsewhere in the EU are not expected to come from systems that comply with the new legislation.

Jean said: “The EU laying hens directive gave farmers a generous 12 years to phase out conventional barren battery cages, yet a large number of producers across the EU are not expected to be ready.  This means that an estimated 84 million hens will continue to be kept in the cruel, barren battery cages that the EU has agreed should be banned.

“The European Commission must make sure that this vital piece of animal welfare legislation is effectively implemented so that it can fulfil the aims of improving the lives of laying hens across the EU, protect those farmers who have invested in alternative farming systems and prevent eggs from illegally kept hens ending up on the market.”

In a letter to Commissioner Dalli, Jean and Keith call for the European Commission to:

Work with Member States which are expected to have non-compliant farms to ensure those farmers are unable to continue in egg production from 1 January 2012
Take swift action with meaningful financial penalties against any country with non-complaint egg producers after 1 January 2012
To implement an intra-community trade ban to stop any illegal eggs that could end up on the market being traded outside the countries where they were laid

While the ban outlaws ‘conventional’ barren battery cages, it still allows ‘enriched’ battery cages.  Confined to a wire cage, hens are kept in small groups, with less useable space than an A4 piece of paper each.  Limited facilities will now be provided for scratching, nesting and perching, but hens will still be unable to properly carry out many of their natural behaviours, like dust bathing and foraging.

The Green Party opposes all forms of intensive farming and believes the so-called enriched battery cage should also be banned.

Notes to Editor

The full text of the Council Directive 1999/74/EC protection of laying hens can be read at: