The letter follows thousands of signatures collected in response to BEIC’s invitation to sign its online pledge campaigning for a ban on eggs produced from illegal cages. Among those pledging their support were MPs, consumers and even the clergy.
BEIC chairman Andrew Parker responded to news that the Czech Republic had banned the import of Polish battery eggs by asking: “If the Czech government can enforce a ban on illegal eggs, why can’t we?”
Parker described the Prime Minister’s recent comments in support of the British egg industry on the BBC Countryfile programme as “very reassuring”. But, he added: “We must now have the action that goes with the words."
A BEIC spokesman told FoodManufacture.co.uk that EU traceability legislation would make it possible to trace continental eggs produced from illegal battery cages.
“The government says it is too difficult and too expensive to implement a ban. We’d like them to reconsider that position,” he added.
But a spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) repeated the government’s view that a ban could not be implemented because of its financial and political implications.
The UK was also already 82% self sufficient in eggs and egg products and all major UK retailers had agreed not to use battery eggs or products containing them, she added.
The National Farmers Union has created a Good Egg list showing UK firms, including producers, food manufacturers and retailers, which are fully compliant with EU legislation.
Parker said it was grossly unfair that the vast majority (99%) of British egg producers have spent a combined £400M to meet the high welfare standards set out in the Welfare of Laying Hens legislation while many continental producers still flout the law.
Egg producers in 13 EU countries, including Spain, Italy and Poland, have not fully complied with the ban, said the BEIC. About one-quarter of EU cage egg production is now illegal, with more than 50M hens still being kept in barren battery cages, producing more than 40M eggs a day.
The BEIC is planning to launch a judicial review at the High Court of DEFRA’s decision not ban illegal egg imports and invites more people to sign its pledge.
“Since the beginning of 2012 conventional battery cages have been banned in the EU. British Lion producers have met the deadline for the Directive and are now producing eggs from higher welfare colony cages or non-cage systems.
But they are being put under pressure from eggs still being produced in barren battery cages in some other countries in the EU. Pledge your support for the British egg industry and join the campaign to help ensure we do not get eggs from illegal cages in this country.”
To sign the BEIC’s pledge, click here.