Written Answers. - Egg Production.

Mary Coughlan

Question:

175 Ms Coughlan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development the concerns, if any, he has regarding the use of battery hens for egg production. [5179/00]

The current EU rules for the protection of laying hens, including those in battery cages, are set out in Council Directive 88/166/EEC, which have been transposed into national law by way of the Care and Welfare of Poultry (Laying Hens) Regulations, 1990 (S.I. No. 238 of 1990). These regulations set out the specifications of battery cages and include a recommended code of practice for the care and welfare of laying hens in battery and other intensive systems. The regulations prescribe requirements for cage area per bird, feed troughs, cage height and floors.

The Council of Ministers of the European Union recently adopted new rules by way of Directive 1999/74/EC providing minimum standards for the protection of laying hens in the various systems of egg production, including battery cages. The new rules will come into operation on 1 January 2003 so far as conventional battery production is concerned. This directive, which I supported during Council discussions, will significantly improve the welfare of laying hens throughout the EU and will, in particular, prohibit conventional battery cages from 2012. This deadline is generally in line with a vote of the European Parliament on battery cages and has been welcomed by animal welfare interests.