Brexit risks putting eggs from battery-caged hens back on the menu

UK - The British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) and Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) have warned that billions of eggs from battery cages could be back on the menu in the event of a no-deal Brexit, unless the UK Government acts to protect British consumers.
calendar icon 11 March 2019
clock icon 4 minute read

Despite assurances across a number of agricultural sectors, the UK Government has so far refused to confirm tariffs will be put in place on foreign eggs and egg products, potentially opening the floodgates for the import of eggs produced in barren battery cages that were banned in the UK in 2012.

BEIC Chairman, Andrew Joret said: “It would be a national disgrace if the Government were to remove tariffs to allow eggs into this country which do not meet even the most basic of welfare standards. It is 7 years since we banned barren battery cages in the UK and consumers would justifiably feel betrayed if this were to happen.”

Joret also raised concerns over the questionable food safety record of many egg producing countries: “The BEIC keeps a global list of issues associated with eggs from other countries and we’ve almost lost count of the number we’ve seen which could put consumer safety at risk – everything from salmonella to Fipronil. We also need to ensure UK consumers are protected from this.”

Peter Stevenson, Chief Policy Advisor at CIWF, said “We urge the Government in the event of a no-deal Brexit, to place tariffs on imported eggs otherwise eggs - and particularly egg products - from battery hens could flood into the UK undermining our farmers. If the Government fails to protect UK farmers from cheap, low welfare imports, it will be impossible for it to honour its commitment to using Brexit to achieve gold standard levels of animal welfare.”

While the Government has pledged to provide robust protection for sheep meat, beef, poultry, dairy and pig meat in order to safeguard the British farming industry, it risks dealing a devastating blow to not only the British egg industry, but also to consumers by refusing to confirm that protection would also be given on eggs and egg products. Eggs produced from hens housed in barren battery cages must not be allowed into the UK.

The BEIC is urgently seeking assurances from the Government to stop consumers being exposed to eggs and egg products from non-EU countries, including the USA, Ukraine, India and Argentina, where animal welfare standards are significantly lower.

Andrew Joret concluded: “Removing tariffs and giving the green light to foreign eggs and egg products, produced in countries where there is no national legislation for laying hen welfare standards, and that are quite rightly outlawed here is an insult to British consumers and simply can’t be allowed to happen. There is a very real risk that we will end up importing eggs from countries where hens have less than 400cm2 of space each – which is far less than when we banned battery cages in 2012.

“The Government cannot let our consumers and farmers down in this way and needs to act now to ensure that we maintain the standards that consumers expect in the UK.”

Ryan Johnson

Editor at The Poultry Site

Ryan worked in conservation from 2008 to 2017, during which time he operated a rainbow trout hatchery and helped to maintain public and protected green spaces in Canada for the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. As editor of The Poultry Site, he now writes about challenges and opportunities in agriculture across the globe.

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