Brussels, 21 June 2012
Animal Welfare: Commission steps up calls urging 10 Member States to implement ban on laying hen cages
Today, the European Commission has sent a reasoned opinion to ten Member States that have failed to correctly implement Directive 1999/74/EC which introduces a ban on the use of un-enriched cages for laying hens. Belgium, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Cyprus, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland and Portugal still allow the use of un-enriched cages for laying hens despite the ban which came into force in January 2012 for which they have had 12 years to prepare. Sending a reasoned opinion is the next step in the procedure before referral to the EU Court of Justice.
As from 1 January 2012, Directive 1999/74/EC required that all laying hens must be kept in "enriched cages" with extra space to nest, scratch and roost, or in alternative systems. According to the Directive, cages can be used only if they provide each hen with at least 750 cm² of cage area, a nest-box, litter, perches and claw-shortening devices, allowing the hens to satisfy their biological and behavioural needs.
The Commission welcomes the efforts made by the Member States which have complied with the rules. However, full compliance by all Member States is essential to avoid market distortions and unfair competition. Member States who still allow the use of "un-enriched" cages put businesses that invested in complying with the new measures at a disadvantage. To demonstrate compliance, Member States will need to show that all those establishments still using un-enriched cages, have either been transformed or closed.
The political decision for the ban on "un-enriched" cages was taken in 1999. Member States have had twelve years to ensure a smooth transition to the new system and to implement the Directive. However, so far, and notwithstanding the repeated calls by the Commission, the above mentioned Member States have failed to adequately comply with applicable EU law.
No reasoned opinions were sent to Bulgaria, Latvia and Romania since the Commission is assessing the additional information provided by these Member States which state that they are now fully compliant with the rules.
The Commission's request takes the form of a reasoned opinion under EU infringement procedures. If the 10 concerned Member States fail to inform the Commission within two months of measures taken to ensure full compliance with EU law, the Commission could refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
For more information:
On the protection of laying hens:
On prior letters of formal notice: IP/12/47
On infringement procedures: MEMO/12/464