A barren battery cage in Europe typically holds four or five hens with a floor space allowance per bird of less than an A4 sheet of paper. Hens in these cages are typically kept in closed sheds that are artificially lit and ventilated. From the day they enter these cages, to the day they are taken for slaughter, they may never see sunlight or feel fresh air.
A hen in a barren battery cage is unable to carry out many of her most basic natural behaviours. She can't forage for food, can't roost, can't lay her eggs in a nest. She cannot even stretch her wings. This causes her extreme physical and psychological stress.
When the European Union agreed to outlaw barren battery cages and the sale of whole eggs from hens in these cruel cages, it was recognised by many as a truly monumental step forward for animal welfare. With the ban officially taking effect on the 1st January 2012, hundreds of millions of hens across Europe have already benefitted.
But Poland isn't following the rules.
The European Commission estimates that over 4 million hens in Poland are still in illegal cages. In the months since the ban has taken effect, producers in Poland have already been caught sending millions of eggs from farms in breach of the ban to other EU nations.This not only breaks EU law and harms animal welfare, but it also undermines farmers in other countries that are following the rules.
It is time that Poland sets in place an action plan to comply with the ban, keeps illegal eggs off the market, and imposes meaningful punishments on producers still keeping hens in illegal barren battery cages.
It is therefore with concern that I note that the Polish government has so far not ensured that Poland’s egg industry complies with the ban, despite agreeing to the legislation upon accession to the European Union in 2004. The result is that over four million hens in Poland are still being kept in cruel and illegal cages.
Please urgently confirm that you will:
- Publically produce an action plan for compliance, setting out what needs to be done so that Poland is able to fully comply with the ban as soon as possible.
- Ensure that eggs from hens kept in illegal barren battery cages are not placed on sale as this is prohibited by the EU Egg Marketing Regulation (589/2008).
- Impose sanctions upon farmers who are breaking the law and using illegal battery cages, ensuring that these sanctions are both effective and dissuasive so that farmers recognise that it is better to change to a compliant system than to continue to pay substantial fines.