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12 EU-States still using illegal battery cages for laying hens


Hundreds of thousands of laying hens still suffer in cages

Vienna / Brussels - Since 1st of January 2012 conventional battery cages for laying hens are banned in all EU member states. However, according to research conducted by the international animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS, farms in 12 member states are still using illegal battery cages. Countries that do not comply with the EU Directive on minimum standards for the protection of laying hens are: Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, , Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, and Spain. FOUR PAWS appreciates that several EU-countries intensified their efforts to shut down conventional battery cages.

On January 26th 2012 the European Commission has begun infringement proceedings against (at that time) 14 non complying Member States. The Commission requested the concerned Member States to respond to a letter of formal notice under EU infringement procedures. If they fail to react satisfactorily within a period of 2 months (until 26th of March 2012) the Commission will send a "reasoned opinion" requesting concerned Member States to take the necessary measures to comply with the Directive within two months after having received the "reasoned opinion".

The farms had 12 years time to change their production. FOUR PAWS' research showed that many farmers started very late with conversion procedures. Now they are in a hurry and do not change in a proper way. At the end of February FOUR PAWS was announced that the UK and Romania have solved all their problems. Two countries stopped the illegal battery cages, but twelve more need to act immediately.

© FOUR PAWS | Fred Dott

To avoid unfair competition all Member States should react concomitantly. After 12 years of transition period it is unacceptable that some egg producers simply ignore the law. "We urge the governments of non-complying countries to quit accepting these illegal practices and to stop them immediately", says Helmut Dungler, CEO and Founder of FOUR PAWS International.

Conventional battery cages are banned in the EU because they do not meet minimum animal welfare standards. In a conventional cage a laying hen is given a living space of only 550 cm2 - which corresponds to less than an A4 sheet of paper. It has no natural light, cannot follow its natural habits and there is hardly any material to keep the hen occupied. Since January 2012 only so-called "enriched cages" are allowed in all EU member states. In those cages, a hen can live on 750 cm2. FOUR PAWS considers "enriched cages" as unacceptable too from the point of view of animal welfare and thus calls on non-complying farmers to quit using all cages and to go for freerange rearing.

Photos and video footage available for free upon request.