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Welfarists unhappy with EU illegal egg solution

Animal welfare groups have condemned attempts by EU health commissioner John Dalli to compromise over the problem of illegal eggs from 1 January 2012 when the conventional cage ban takes effect.

Speaking in Brussels, Dalli said he was looking for a "political solution" that would prevent illegal eggs from leaving the member state in which they were produced and ensuring they only went for processing.

But Compassion in World Farming said that will mean illegal eggs could still be sold after the ban on barren battery cages comes into force. "This is completely the wrong message to be sending out at this time and makes a mockery of this legislation - the deadline for which egg producers across Europe have been aware of for more than a decade," said CIWF's chief policy adviser Peter Stevenson.

"Legalising the sale of illegally produced battery eggs in the member state of production for processing would result in non-compliant farmers in countries such as Spain and Poland having a reduced incentive to move away from battery cages."

Eurogroup for Animals said it too was "shocked". "By allowing producers to flagrantly break the law and continue selling illegally produced eggs, the commission is undermining its own legislation and credibility," said Sonja Van Tichelen, director of Eurogroup for Animals. "Not only is animal welfare being ignored here, but the whole idea of a common market is being challenged."

UKIP MEP Stuart Agnew said British egg producers had been completely let down. "All the commissioner has done is to promise that an inspectorate will be created and that infraction proceedings will be started against non-compliant countries. "These measures will be of little or no help. The inspectorate will hardly know where to start as no fewer than five member states have to date provided the commission with absolutely no information about their efforts to comply with the legislation."

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.

Source: www.fwi.co.uk

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