Compassion in World Farming is calling for urgent action from the EU Commission to prevent several major EU nations flouting the conventional cage ban when it comes into force.

Recent commission figures obtained by CIWF confirm that many member states will not be complying with the new welfare legislation on 1 January 2012.

France, for example, is forecasting that over 6 million hens will still be in conventional cages (out of a flock of 45 million), while Poland will have 4 million and Portugal 2.5 million (out of a flock of 6.5 million).

Major egg producing nations Italy and Spain have been unable to provide reliable figures at all, says CIWF.

“Member states have had since 1999 to prepare for the ban on barren battery cages,” said chief policy advisor Peter Stevenson. “That is more than enough time to make the necessary changes. It is essential the EU stands firm and puts pressure on national governments to make sure their farmers are ready,”

Mr Stevenson added that, while CIWF was very disappointed by the data, he did not expect the situation to be long-lasting.

“We are putting a lot of pressure on retailers and food processors throughout Europe to remind them that it will be illegal to use eggs from battery-caged birds next year. They are waking up to this and soon there will not be a market – that will be the greatest incentive for egg producers to change.”

Mr Stevenson also insisted that there was a need for proper enforcement to ensure that British producers were not undermined by illegal imports. “The egg marketing regulations give DEFRA the authority to block these sales – indeed it is duty bound to ensure that battery eggs do not go on sale from 1 January 2012.

“There is no need to introduce an intra-community trade ban or change the existing law. It just needs to be enforced better. Current production codes identify where the egg came from. Inspectors just need to go to those farms and check on their systems. None of this is simple, but it is certainly doable.”