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European Union Council Directive 1999/74/EC

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Title: European Union Council Directive 1999/74/EC  
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Language: English
Subject: Furnished cages, Chicken, Egg marking, Animal law, Poussin (chicken)
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

European Union Council Directive 1999/74/EC

A rooster (left) and hen (right)
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Galliformes
Family: Phasianidae
Subfamily: Phasianinae
Genus: Gallus
Species: G. gallus
Subspecies: G. g. domesticus
Trinomial name
Gallus gallus domesticus
(Linnaeus, 1758)

Chicken : Cock or Rooster (m), Hen (f)

European Union Council Directive 1999/74/EC[1] is legislation passed by the European Union on the minimum standards for keeping egg laying hens which effectively bans conventional battery cages. The directive, passed in 1999, banned conventional battery cages in the EU from January 1, 2012 after a 13-year phase-out. Battery cages were already banned in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Sweden prior to 2012. The directive does not apply to establishments with fewer than 350 laying hens or establishments rearing breeding laying hens. Such establishments are, however, subject to the requirements of Directive 98/58/EC. The directive is not supported with fines, penalties or export bans.

As alternatives to battery cages, Directive 1999/74/EC allows non-cage systems and furnished cages. Furnished cages therefore represent a feasible alternative to battery cages in the EU after 2012. Under the directive, furnished cages must provide at least the following: 750 cm2 per hen, of which 600 cm2 is 45 cm high, a nest, a littered area for scratching and pecking, 15 cm of perch and 12 cm of food trough per hen and a claw shortening device. Austria banned battery cages in 2009 and is set to ban furnished cages by 2020. Belgium has also banned the battery cage – and proposes to ban furnished cages by 2024. Germany has introduced a ‘family cage’, which has more space than the furnished cages used in other countries, however, consumers in Germany have been rejecting these eggs. Outside the EU, Switzerland has already banned both the battery and furnished cage systems.[2]

In February 2010, the Polish government formally requested the EU to delay enacting Directive 1999/74/EC by 5 years until 2017,[3] however, this was unsuccessful.

According to figures submitted to the European Commission in 2011, 14 countries were expected to be battery cage free by 1 January 2012. However, six states including Portugal, Poland and Romania admitted they would not be ready, while Spain and Italy, among others, did not know or would not say whether they will meet the deadline.[4] In France one third of egg producers have gone out of business and according to figures of the UGPVB (the industry association) 5% of producers were still not compliant as of January 2012 and have had their licences withdrawn.[5] This has led to fears that cheaper, illegal eggs, particularly liquid egg products, from non-compliant states will flood the market undercutting compliant egg producers. John Dalli, the EU health commissioner, has issued legal warnings to 13 countries over their lack of readiness or effort to enforce the ban.[6] The 13 member states already found to be in breach of the directive are: Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Spain, Greece, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and the Netherlands.[7]

Compliance beyond January 2012

It is clear that beyond the date of the law coming into effect, many hens are still being housed in battery cages. European Commission figures show that more than 47 million hens are still (January 2012) in conventional battery cages across the EU, representing 14.3% of production,[8] although it has been reported this figure might be as high as 23% of EU egg production - equivalent to 84 million hens laying 70 million eggs a day.[9]

Including the UK, 15 EU states reported to the EU’s Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health that they had non-compliant producers. These states were Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, UK, Latvia, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Romania. Some of these countries, such as Italy and Belgium, admit to having 30% of illegal production.

In the UK, there are approximately 31 million egg laying hens. Over £400 million has been spent to meet the standards. In January 2012, reports stated that figures from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) indicate 423,000 hens on 32 farms in the UK were still being housed in battery cages.[10][11][12] This represents a non-compliance rate of 1%.


  1. ^ "European Union Council Directive 1999/74/EC". Retrieved 15 November 2011. 
  2. ^ "Ecologist, September 2011". Retrieved January 22, 2012. 
  3. ^ ", February 2010". Retrieved January 15, 2011. 
  4. ^ Hickman, Martin (27 December 2011). "The Independent, December 27th, 2011". London. Retrieved 15 January 2012. 
  5. ^ "20 Minutes (France), March 28th, 2012". Retrieved 29 April 2012. 
  6. ^ "Vegnews web-page". Retrieved 15 Jan 2012. 
  7. ^ "Farmers Guardian, December 20th, 2011". Retrieved 15 January 2012. 
  8. ^ "The Ranger, January 2012". Retrieved 27 January 2012. 
  9. ^ Lewis, Jason (1 January 2012). "The Telegraph, January 15th, 2012". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 15 January 2012. 
  10. ^ "The Ranger, January 2012". Retrieved 27 January 2012. 
  11. ^ "Compassion in World Farming web-page". Retrieved 14 January 2012. 
  12. ^ "Farmers Guardian, January 13th, 2012". Retrieved 15 Jan 2012. 
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