In May 2013 we published the news that the European Commission had decided to take Greece and Italy to the EU Court of Justice over their breaching of the Laying Hens Directive. Both countries had failed to ban barren battery cages by 2012 despite a generous 13-year implementation period. The procedure against these two countries could have resulted in fines paid by those States if they did not act promptly to eliminate all remaining conventional cages.


Free-range eggs - Eifel, Germany, 2014

Free-range eggs - Eifel, Germany, 2014

Italy was found guilty of breaking the law in May despite the Italian government’s absurd claim that it had not had enough time to ensure all farms were compliant. In early September, Greece was found guilty too.


Remarkably, in both cases the countries have been ordered to pay the costs of the case but the Commission has not asked the Court to also impose a fine. The deterrent effect of taking to court countries that deliberately breach EU law has thus been seriously undermined. Not surprisingly, some countries – Italy among them – continue to be non-compliant with other pieces of EU legislation such as the Pig Directive.


This not only affects the many animals who are kept in illegal conditions, but is also unfair to those farmers who comply with the law. In Britain, for instance, Duncan Priestner, Chairman of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Poultry Board, which represents the UK poultry industry, said: “It’s disappointing that Greece has got away with producing illegal eggs for so long with absolutely no consequence for the country or the producers. British farmers have invested heavily to comply with the legislation and it has been an unfair playing field.”


You can read the news on the NFU website.