The UK rural affairs ministry DEFRA has issued a February 1 deadline, after which it will take action against any remaining non-compliant cage egg units in the UK. A number of now-illegal battery farms were discovered in the UK during an investigation by BBC journalists
Compassion in World Farming (Compassion) expressed surprise and disappointment at the discovery. In November, DEFRA was confident that the UK would be fully compliant with the Council Directive 1999/74/EC, which bans barren battery cages with effect from January 1.
A Compassion spokesman told ARC that the extent of the problem might be tens of UK farms and about 300,000 birds, but that this was nothing compared to the flagrant non-compliance levels in other EU member states.
Last year the UK government welcomed the report from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRACOM) into the UK egg industry’s readiness for compliance with the directive. It carried the caveat that: “…the UK’s ability to argue for strict adherence to the Directive will be undermined if this country is not fully compliant.”
The UK government, along with nine other member states, contacted the European Commission in September to ask for measures to protect compliant egg producers from “…competitive distortion…” However, the UK government recognises that: “…the obstacles to establishing a trade ban that encompassed all products that contained egg derived ingredients produced in non-compliant cages may well be insurmountable.”