By John Farrant

GERMAN agriculture minister Renate Künasts plan to ban all laying cages has run into legal problems, according to the poultry producers association ZDG.

The countrys laws on animal welfare accepts the use of cages, provided that appropriate standards are enforced.

The Minister was hoping to push a vote through the Parliament that would ban conventional cages from 2007 and enriched cages from 2012.

Further flaws in such proposals are said by legal experts to relate to the consequences of banning egg production in cages, such as finding suitable locations and compensation for producers.

A previous government had encouraged investment in enriched cages with 20-year low-interest loans.

Hasty moves to go beyond the EU Welfare of Laying Hens Directive could not only involve a legal tangle involving animal welfare and property law but also heavy compensation for much of the German egg industry.

Despite all these obstacles, the German Upper House, the Bundesrat, has voted in favour of the proposals to ban all cages.

It proposed that the new law comes into force next year after the EU Commission has been notified.

Renate Künast says that over 90% of consumers would pay more for free range and barn eggs, the ZDG says that the domestic market will be taken over by imports of eggs from hens kept in cages.

Germany is already the biggest egg importer in the world.