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EU opens actions against cramped hen cages
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EU opens actions against cramped hen cages

14.03.2012 From our online archive
Legal proceedings have been opened against 13 European Union states who have failed to fully ban cramped, tiny cages for laying hens despite being given a dozen years to adapt.

(AP) Legal proceedings have been opened against 13 European Union states who have failed to fully ban cramped, tiny cages for laying hens despite being given a dozen years to adapt.

The European Commission announced Thursday that Poland, Spain, Italy, France and nine other EU nations have been officially asked for information about the situation — the first step in a legal process that could lead to court action.

It said that 47 million of the EU's around 330 million hens — roughly 14 percent — are still kept in illegal battery cages, despite being told to adapt to new EU regulations announced in 1999.

The new rules require cages to be enlarged from at least 550 square centimeters (85 square inches) to at least 750 sq. centimeters (115 sq. inches) to boost living space per hen, among other measures.

The EU recognized in its new regulations that it would take time for member states to adjust, so they were given until January 1 this year to comply. Yet, even such an extensive deadline was not enough.

"After a dozen years more than half the states are not in line with the new rules,'" said EU Commission spokesman Frederic Vincent.

Farmers who have introduced expensive coop renovations are still competing with other companies who have not adapted. As a transitional measure since January 1, illegal eggs can now only be used for industrial use and not sold directly to consumers.

Member states have two months to respond to the Commission's request for information. After that, the Commission can tell them to take more measures to comply and, eventually, even take them to court.

Animal welfare activists have been particularly scathing of the EU's failed attempts to enforce farmers to make the switch within the 12-year timeline.