Poultry farmers consider protests over cage ban

Poultry farmers are considering protesting over rules which could see illegal eggs from battery-caged hens being imported into the UK from Europe, the NFU says.

Union president Peter Kendall said poultry farmers were furious over European Commission rules which will ban conventional caged hens across the EU from next year, but have no way of checking whether member states comply.

Speaking at an NFU council meeting in Leamington Spa on Tuesday (11 October), Mr Kendall said the Commission had been in ‘downright denial’ over the problems in implementing the policy.

While poultry farmers in the UK were set to be entirely compliant with the rules by the end of 2011, almost a quarter of European hens (23%) would still be housed in conventional cages.

Spain in particular had 37m hens still housed in battery cages, with no way of knowing whether the eggs were being exported into the UK for processing.

Mr Kendall said the Commission had its head in the sand over the potential problems the new legislation posed.

“Producers are right to be furious,” he said. “The Commisison has been in downright denial and now is starting to realise the problems at the 11th hour.”

His comments came after Kelly Watson, NFU chief poultry advisor, said the Commission needed to act swiftly to find a way to get egg producers across the EU to comply with the rules, or to keep illegal eggs from entering the UK.

“We want the commission to say how they are going to deal with this,” she said.

“European Health Commissioner John Dali spoke to the European Parliament last week and said he wanted to look for a political solution. We want eggs to stay in the borders of the member state and Dali said that was his preferred option too.

“But we are going to push DEFRA on this, we are writing to food chain representatives and we want to get retailers on side so UK producers aren’t unfairly disadvantaged.

“Farmers are willing to campaign on this next January if imports are allowed in.”

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