The RSPCA’s call for the outlawing of higher welfare enriched colony egg production systems have been called “irresponsible and shortsighted” by the NFU.

During a meeting of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on the welfare and conservation of animals, in Brussels, the RSPCA called for the EU-approved enriched colony system to be banned.

Under EU legislation, conventional cages will be banned after January 2012, while enriched cages will be allowed after that date.

Robert Newbery, NFU chief poultry adviser, said: “The RSPCA is being short-sighted and irresponsible in calling for enriched colony systems to be banned at a time when our members are doing their level best to respond to consumer demands, which means supplying eggs to all ends of the market.

“Sales in free range and conventional indoor eggs are both growing respectively, reflecting that some consumers wish to buy higher welfare while other consumers, who have to watch the pennies especially in this current financial climate, opt for affordability.

“Banning the new enriched colony system, would only serve to export our egg industry to outside the EU or UK where welfare standards may be well behind our own,” he added.