22nd December 2011
From 1 January 2012 it will be illegal to keep chickens in small battery cages in the EU. It is estimated that 83 million illegal eggs will be laid everyday mostly in Eastern Europe. Despite giving farmers over a decade to prepare for the new rules, ten EU countries are not ready to enforce the law.
British farmers have invested over £400 million to be ready for the new laws. Experts predict that some 83 million eggs will be laid illegally across the EU every day from January 1st. We need to look closely at what will happen to these illegal eggs. If they came into the UK in any guise it would undermine the market with disastrous consequences for poultry farmers in the South West who have invested hundreds of thousands of pounds in new equipment and facilities to comply with the new directive.
Negotiations in Brussels are suggesting a ban on cross border sales from non-compliant countries. However this only covers eggs in shells and not eggs used as ingredients for other products.
I would strongly urge readers to support British farmers and take a long hard look at the labels on products containing eggs.
In my work in the European Parliament I am frequently approached by businesses that support the principal of the single market but are frustrated by the anti-competitive situation created when some countries turn a blind eye to agreed legislation. We all support a free market, but it must also be a fair market.
Eggs laid by British chickens adhere to much higher animal welfare standards than found in some other EU countries. These standards cost money, our farmers should not be disadvantaged by obeying the rules.