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Brussels, 13 January 2003

Commission acts against five Member States to protect laying hens

The European Commission has launched the second stage of infringement proceedings against Austria, Belgium, Greece, Italy and Portugal over their apparent failure to implement the 1999 Directive setting out the minimum standards for the protection of laying hens (1999/74/EC). All Member States were obliged to implement the Directive in national law by 1 January 2002 and notify the Commission of the measures taken. The sending of a so-called 'reasoned opinion' to the five countries concerned is the second step in the infringement process. The Member States now have two months to comply with the 'reasoned opinion', or the Commission may decide to take them to the European Court of Justice.

"This Directive was introduced in order to better protect the welfare of hens kept in battery cages and other rearing systems", said David Byrne, EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection. "It is imperative that Member States live up to the obligations they have undertaken. One year after the deadline for implementation the Commission has no choice but to proceed with infringement actions to demand progress from Member States that are apparently lagging."

Setting higher standards for the protection of laying hens

Directive 1999/74/EC lays down updated minimum standards for the protection of laying hens, introducing enhanced common rules to address previous legislative shortcomings whereby animal welfare concerns were not sufficiently considered. Furthermore, it allows each Member State to introduce more stringent standards in its own territory.

The Directive distinguishes three types of minimum conditions in rearing systems for laying hens:

  • enriched cages(1), where laying hens have at least 750 cm2 of cage area per hen;

  • not enriched cage systems with 550 cm2 of cage area per hen (to be phased out before 2012);

  • non-cage systems with nests (at least one for 7 hens), adequate perches and where the stocking density does not exceed 9 laying hens per m2 usable area.

Further information

For further information on Directive 1999/74/EC see:

(1)Cages equipped with perches, a nest box and a littered area to allow pecking and scratching

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