Eggs face ban from shops if battery cages remain
IRISH eggs will be taken off supermarket shelves if hens aren't provided with bigger and better cages that allow them to peck and scratch, the EU Commission has warned.
EU Health and Consumer Commissioner John Dalli said legal action would be taken against countries that do not implement a ban on battery cages for laying hens from January 1, 2012.
Producers who do not provide their hens with "enriched" cages will not be allowed sell their eggs to the more lucrative retail market or for export, and will instead be restricted to selling them to the food processing industry for domestic consumption only.
The improved cages must be of a minimum size -- 45cm high -- and include a nest, perches, litter for pecking and scratching and claw-shortening devices.
Cannibalism and self-mutilation are among the problems that can arise if hens are kept in poor conditions.
Ireland was among the member states found to have inadequate checks and enforcement of welfare conditions for hens during inspection missions carried out in recent years.
A Department of Agriculture spokesman said most larger commercial egg producers in Ireland would have upgraded their cages to meet the higher standards in time, but a number of older, smaller operators would not be able to and would probably cease trading before the January deadline.
Mr Dalli said that 12 years had passed since the EU decided to ban poor quality cages and the situation in some countries was still unsatisfactory, which was bad for animal welfare and consumer trust.
There would be no delay on implementing the ban on battery cages and the EU would be sending in experts to member states from next January to check for compliance, Mr Dalli said.