The new EU Health commissioner, Androula Vassiliou, has no doubts about her department’s decision on conventional laying cages and will be sticking to the 2012 execution date for the conventional cage ban.

Her spokeswoman Nina Papadoulaki made it clear to Poultry World that there would be no extra time for EU egg producers to convert to alternative systems. Derogations would not be needed and the manufacture, delivery and installation of alternative systems would not be a problem. This is in response to the sector’s claims there is insufficient time to make the switch before the deadline.

The Commission understands that the leading laying cage manufacturers have a plan to contract-out the manufacture and erection work to local engineers to get the job completed on time.

“They will deliver products, commodities and materials worldwide for local engineers to build the systems. They could therefore ask the producers/suppliers for material to increase production or just ask another supplier. Like this they could double the production easily,” she said.

False expectations

The problems [lack of progress on adopting alternative systems], according to Mrs Vassiliou’s office, had been created by egg industry leaders who confused and raised false expectations among egg producers that the 2012 ban was still up for review. The obligations had been clear since 1999 and the Directive did not foresee any further changes.

Any delays would disadvantage producers that were complying with the legislation and had already invested in other systems.

Farmers had been given 12 years to change to other systems. This transformation is also very much in line with European citizens’ wishes: Opinion polls show that European consumers care more for the welfare of laying hens than for any other farmed species.

The Commission had no detailed information on how switch was progressing beyond news of an increasing use of alternative systems, particularly in the new members in eastern Europe.