Defra has admitted some UK egg producers still use battery cages, despite the ban

Defra has admitted some UK egg producers still use battery cages, despite the ban

Some UK farmers are still keeping hens in battery cages, despite an EU ban that came into effect at the start of this year.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has admitted that around 30 producers are not complying with the EU Welfare of Laying Hens Directive.

The admission comes after fierce criticism from the UK egg industry of farmers on the Continent that have not met the new EU rules.

The British Egg Industry Council (BEIC), a body which represents UK egg producers, said it is "appalled" at the producers continuing to use battery cages and urged immediate action against them.

Chairman Andrew Parker said: "We are disgusted that these few producers are still using banned barren battery cages. It is illegal and is grossly unfair on the vast majority of UK producers who have invested GBP400m (US$613.8) in ensuring that they meet the new standards on time."

The BEIC added that around 50m hens - producing 40m eggs a day - are known to still be in banned battery cages in several other EU member states, including Italy, Spain and Poland.

The council has urged Defra to ban battery eggs from EU countries but the government department has insisted it cannot introduce unilateral restrictions. Defra has instead pointed to a voluntary agreement among UK manufacturers and retailers not to use battery eggs.

However, the BEIC has nonetheless started Judicial Review proceedings against Defra over enforcement of the ban.

A Defra spokesperson said it was "disappointed" that some domestic producers are still not compliant.

They said: "The level of non-compliance in the UK is very low and latest figures show that it represents just 1% of the total UK flock. By 1 February we expect that these producers will have stopped using these battery cages or we will have issued legal notices and referred the producers to the local council who will consider prosecution."