DEFRA has expressed its dismay at the collapse of talks aimed at improving the welfare of meat chickens in the EU.

Ministers had been expected to agree to new welfare rules in Brussels next week.

But the Finnish Presidency has withdrawn them following strong opposition to the improvements from a number of countries.

Junior DEFRA minister Ben Bradshaw said: “The welfare of broiler chickens is a major concern to the public here and elsewhere in Europe. We have worked very hard over more than two years on these proposals, which would have led to real improvements to chicken welfare in Europe.

“They were supported by most EU states, animal welfare groups and the UK broiler industry – which generally has high standards and wants to see a level playing field across the EU. I am dismayed that a small number of countries has blocked progress.

“We will try to persuade the forthcoming German Presidency of the EU to return to this issue, but I am not optimistic that we will see a satisfactory solution soon.”