NFU Scotland has blasted as “lamentable” the lack of inspection and enforcement procedures for the ban on conventional laying cages and the more recent partial ban on sow stalls.
NFU Scotland’s policy manager for pigs and poultry, Peter Loggie, attended an Egg and Poultrymeat Advisory meeting in Brussels last week, and said that the commission’s attitude had failed to ensure producers across Europe were abiding by the same set of rules.
“In the run-up to the laying cage ban at the start of 2012, the commission’s animal welfare staff promised inspections of Member States to check their compliance. Instead, inspections of the 13 Member States that missed the laying cage deadline were postponed because they would only have proved what these countries had freely admitted. At the time, we accepted that this was a sensible approach.
“However, 15 months after the laying cage ban was introduced, we still have four Member States – believed to be Cyprus, Italy, Greece and Poland – still failing to comply with the laying cage ban. Despite this, the commission has still not taken action against any of them, nor against any of the others that were significantly late.
“Furthermore, another four of those countries that failed to meet the original deadline – Belgium, Hungary, Spain and Portugal – have not had an FVO [Commission Food and Veterinary Office] inspection to establish that they are now compliant and none are scheduled for 2013.”
Mr Loggie said that the commission had been told that those member states had yet to be re-inspected despite being found deficient in their compliance with laying hen welfare rules during previous inspections. “As no action seems to have been taken against them, then it is possible that without further inspection they may continue to flout the regulations.”
He added that lessons from the Laying Hen legislation “debacle” had not been learnt, saying that the partial sow stall ban introduction on 1 January 2013 was “repeating the same mistakes”.
“At the end of 2012, only five countries in Europe were reported as being fully compliant with the stall ban but within weeks that figure has supposedly risen to 10. Of those countries still not compliant with sow stall regulations, the progress towards compliance has been nothing short of miraculous. In the space of a few weeks, France has gone from just 33% compliant to 72%, Belgium from 45% to 89%, Ireland from 57% to 82% and Italy from 69% to 99%.
“That rate of progress should set alarm bells ringing with commission officials.” Mr Loggie called for a robust inspection procedure that was fairly and uniformly applied. “Greater commission resources must be directed towards the inspection procedures, backed up by penalty proceedings against those countries where non-compliance with welfare rules continues.”