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Derogation for battery cage ban by Belgian Minister Onkelinx unacceptable and illegal

Brussels, 16 August 2011

Derogation for battery cage ban by Belgian Minister Onkelinx unacceptable and illegal!

Eurogroup for Animals strictly condemns the suggestion of Belgium to allow a six-month �period of grace� for egg producers following the introduction of the barren battery cage ban on 1 January 2012 which is in breach of the European Directive. In answer to a parliamentary question Minister Onkelinx suggested that she could grant producers who have not changed to another system a six month extension. This is not allowed, the Directive is very clear � from 1 January 2012 chickens cannot be kept in barren battery cages under any condition. Producers have already had 12 years to comply with this law.

�We have called on the European Commission, together with our Belgian member GAIA to ensure that Belgium is stopped and ordered to conform. Commissioner Dalli has repeatedly stated that there will be no postponement or exemption and yet member states are already ignoring the deadline and making up their own rules,� said Sonja Van Tichelen, director of Eurogroup for Animals.

�Eurogroup is extremely concerned that member states are taking unilateral decisions to postpone this ban, either by stating that they will not control the ban before a given time as is the case in Spain or like Belgium where they have put forward their own conditions. It is appalling how member states treat EU legislation to protect animals. Enforcement and compliance are becoming a big joke with large numbers of animals suffering as a result,� concluded Ms. Van Tichelen.

Eurogroup and GAIA have also called for an urgent meeting with the Belgian Minister. Minister Onkelinkx has listened to the producers but it is now time, as minister in charge of animal welfare that she listens to the animal welfare NGOs and ensures that the ban on barren battery cages is enforced on time preventing the ongoing suffering of thousands of hens.

- ENDS -

For further information contact:

Martyn Griffiths,

e-mail m.griffffiths@eurogroupforanimals.org or tel.: +32 (0)2 740 08 23. Notes

1 Eurogroup for Animals represents animal welfare organisations in all EU Member States. Since its launch in 1980, the organisation has succeeded in encouraging the EU to adopt higher legal standards for animal protection. Eurogroup represents public opinion through its membership organisations across the Union, and has both the scientific and technical expertise to provide authoritative advice on issues relating to animal welfare. For more information, visit www.eurogroupforanimals.org <http://www.eurogroupforanimals.org/>

2 Current battery cages are made of thin wire mesh, including the floors, which slope to allow the eggs to roll out for collection. One building may contain tens of thousands of birds stacked in cages six tiers high, with a walkway above the third tier to facilitate inspection.

3 Health problems arising from keeping hens in battery cages include poor feather cover and bone weakness caused by the inability to move normally. Bone fragility is a major problem and up to 30% of caged hens may have broken bones by the time they are slaughtered. Many birds in battery cages also have ulcerated feet and long claws which can get caught and torn off in the wire mesh cage floors.

4 Non-cage systems for keeping laying hens include barn systems (or percheries) and free-range. In barn systems, the birds are reared indoors, but have access to perches to roost on, litter in which to scratch and dust bathe, and nest boxes in which to nest and lay eggs. Free-range housing is very similar to the barn system, but the hens also have continuous daytime access to an open-air range area covered in vegetation. In 1996 free-range hens represented 2.43% of the total laying hens raised in the EU-15 and by 2007 it had reached 16.9% in the EU-27.

5 Birds that are kept free-range and other alternative husbandry systems allow for better welfare. Enriched cages do offer the birds more space (750 cm� as opposed to the mere 550 cm� of an conventional battery cage), and feature litter, perches and claw shortening devices but still cause welfare concerns as they do not allow the animals to stretch or flap their wings, dust bathe, nor allow natural head movement.

6 Studies have consistently shown that European consumers and retailers are increasingly shying away from marketing and purchasing egg products from non-welfare friendly production systems.

7 Click here http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:1999:203:0053:0057:EN:PDF to consult the EU Directive laying down minimum standards for the protection of laying hens.

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