UK considering unilateral battery egg import ban

UK considering unilateral battery egg import ban
16th Nov 2011


THE UK is considering a unilateral ban on illegally produced eggs after the European Commission ruled out new legislation to enforce the imminent battery cage ban. Reports the FG.
During a meeting with Ministers from the 27 member states in Brussels on Monday (November 14), Commission officials said a formal ban on the sale of illegally produced eggs outside the member state they were produced in would contravene EU trade rules.
The EU Welfare of Laying Hens Directive banning the production of eggs from ‘unenriched’ cages comes into force on January 1, 2012. Data collected by the Commission show that a number of major egg producing member states, including Italy and Spain, will still be producing eggs in battery cages on that date.
Farming Minister Jim Paice said Monday’s failure to reach an agreement on action to enforce the ban leaves member states like the UK, which will have complied, vulnerable to cheaper, illegally produced imports, particularly of liquid and powder egg products.
He pledged that the UK would consider putting its own measures in place to protect its egg producers.
“UK egg farmers have led the way in introducing higher welfare standards, spending millions of pounds to convert to better cages. Despite having 12 years to prepare, producers in several Member States are nowhere near complying with the new rules but could still be able to sell eggs, putting our farmers who look after their chickens at a disadvantage.
“With the cut-off date looming, it really is unacceptable that the Commission is not able to enforce a regulation on animal welfare. British farmers who have invested in new systems and met their obligation will be put at risk.”
Mr Paice said he fully understood why other countries who have complied with the rules were unwilling to compromise but insisted it would ‘not be right’ to destroy millions of non-compliant eggs every week in order to fully enforce the law.
He suggested a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ to ensure that eggs from illegal cages do not leave the country of origin, could yet be ‘the least worst option’.
He added: “The Commission has arranged for another meeting of specialists and I’m still hopeful that we can find a way forward.
“In the meantime we’re wasting no time and I’ll meet British industry representatives tomorrow to look at what we in the UK can do alone.”
Fellow Defra Minister Lord Taylor said the UK Government has ‘thoroughly investigated’ the possibility of taking unilateral action in the form of a UK ban on illegally produced imported egg and egg products.
He acknowledged that there were ‘very significant legal challenges’ in instigating a unilateral ban but said such a move is ‘still on the table’.
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