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EU Softens Ban On Eggs From Battery Hens

An EU ban on the sale of eggs from battery chickens to consumers will go ahead as planned from Jan. 1, 2012, but producers may be free to sell non-compliant eggs to domestic processors, the bloc s consumer affairs chief said Oct. 5.

The commission does not intend to postpone the deadline of the ban. Investments and efforts already made as well as consumer trust must not be undermined, said John Dalli, EU health and consumer commissioner.

But rather than forcing producers who fail to meet the deadline to destroy their eggs, the European Commission wants to let them sell them to industrial processors not retailers in their own countries.

The problem has more than one dimension. It has an economic dimension in the countries themselves that are producing these eggs some of them in deep crisis already. Secondly, it also has a consumer dimension in terms of the supply, demand and pricing of eggs, Dalli said.

Therefore, there must be a political solution to this… What I am pushing to do is to contain any eggs that are not produced according to the new directive within their own territory, usable only for (processing).

Dalli said the compromise would ensure compliant producers get a premium price for their products and protect them from the threat of cheap imports of illegal eggs.

But he said it was still unclear whether such a compromise was compatible with EU legislation and that the commission would work with EU governments to try to reach a solution.

Test case

The EU agreed on the battery cage ban back in 1999, but commission figures for April 2011 showed that about 144 million laying hens more than a third of the EU total were still being kept in battery cages.

The commission will send inspectors to selected member states from January to assess their compliance with the ban, Dalli said in a speech to the European Parliament s agriculture committee in Brussels.

Based on the outcomes of these audits, the commission will not hesitate to start infringement procedures where appropriate in 2012, he said.

Commission assessments of which countries are likely to conform with the ban in January 2012 predict significant non-compliance in France, Poland, Belgium and Portugal, and serious question marks over the situation in Italy, Spain, Greece and Hungary.

Producers in countries that have already implemented or are expected to meet the deadline, such as Germany, Austria and Britain, have urged the commission to do more to punish countries that flout the ban.

You have to go back and rethink, and bring a plan forward that has some real teeth in it that will actually force compliance, George Lyon, a British member of the European Parliament, told Dalli.

The ban on battery cages is seen as an important test case for the EU s implementation of a prohibition on the use of sow stalls from Jan. 1, 2013.

Sow stalls also known as gestation crates are caged metal enclosures measuring about 210 cm by 60 cm used to confine pregnant sows in intensive pig farming.

Animal welfare campaigners say their use severely restricts movement and promotes physical and psychological suffering including lameness, cardiovascular problems and stress.

The use of such stalls is already banned in Britain and Sweden, and from 2013 they will be banned across the EU except for during the first four weeks of pregnancy.

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