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THE UK's Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRACom) has accused the European Commission of being complacent about the potential damage that the forthcoming implementation of the Welfare of Laying Hens Directive could do to egg producers that comply with its requirements. On publishing a report on the subject earlier this month, the parliamentary select committee warned that the Commission was ‘sleepwalking into a potential commercial disaster over animal welfare regulations that could result in unfair competition for UK egg producers.’
The directive, which will come into effect on January 1, 2012, will ban the use of conventional (‘battery’) cages for laying hens and the marketing of eggs from hens housed in such cages. It will be the first piece of European legislation to phase out a method of production because of animal welfare concerns.
The EFRACom published a report of an inquiry it had conducted into the implications of the directive on September 2. In it, it notes that, while Defra expects all UK poultry producers to comply with its requirements in time for the January deadline, figures from the EC suggest that about …