NI Farmers' Groups in Brussels to Discuss Cage Ban

NORTHERN IRELAND - Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) representatives were in Brussels last week to discuss implementation of the Welfare of Laying Hens Directive.
calendar icon 17 October 2011
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UFU Poultry Policy Committee Chairman, John McLenaghan, and UFU Policy Officer, Colin Smith, were in Brussels last week and joined the other UK Farming Unions, and farming organisations throughout Europe, to discuss the implementation of the Welfare of Laying Hens Directive (WHLD) or cage ban as it is commonly known.

While in Brussels, they also spoke to Dr Andrea Gavinelli, Head of the Animal Welfare Unit at the European Commission, at an Eggs and Poultry Advisory Group Meeting at DG Agriculture. At the meeting, Dr Gavinelli echoed comments made by European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Affairs, John Dalli, last week who said he was pushing for an intra-community trade ban even though no legal basis had been granted to take such a measure. Commissioner Dalli also vowed to take infraction procedures against non-compliant Member States.

However, Mr McLenaghan said the Commission was doing too little, too late and instead urged the UK Government to take the initiative with a unilateral ban on illegal eggs.

He said; "We want to ensure that producers in Northern Ireland, who have invested heavily in conversion to enriched cages in order to meet the requirements of the Welfare of Laying Hens Directive, are not put at a commercial disadvantage through imported non-compliant eggs. The bottom line is that the Commission has figures on which Member States still have hens in conventional cages but they do not have a robust plan to deal with illegal eggs. For this reason, we need to see quick action taken at a local level to protect our industry from the threat of illegal eggs."

At the poultry advisory group meeting, Dr Gavinelli also provided details of Member States that will not be compliant. This comes after Commissioner Dalli's comments last week when he publicly named and shamed the 12 Member States – including France, Italy and Spain – that have either continuously failed to provide data on their cage systems or are expected to still be producing eggs from non-enriched battery cages in 2012.

Mr McLenaghan concluded: "Dr Gavinelli informed delegates that the issue will now be prioritised at a meeting of Member States at the next Agriculture Council in Luxembourg on October 20 and 21. The UFU awaits the outcome of this meeting with interest. There must be decisive action taken at this meeting and the UFU will meet our own Minister, Michelle O'Neill early next week to determine what her plans are to deal with illegal eggs entering the Province in 2012."

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