(CN) – The European Commission warned 10 member states that they face lawsuits if they don’t implement a 12-year-old ban on restrictive chicken cages.
Lawmakers passed the ban on small cages for laying hens in 1999 and gave member states until January 2012 to comply. So far, Belgium, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Cypress, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland and Portugal have failed to correctly roll out the directive, the commission said.
The law requires that farmers keep all laying hens throughout the EU in “enriched cages” with extra space to nest, scratch and roost – if they are kept in cages at all. Enriched cages provide each hen with at least 25 square feet of cage area, a nest box, litter, perches and scratch posts to let hens satisfy their biological and behavioral needs, according to the commission.
“The commission welcomes the efforts made by the Member States which have complied with the rules,” the commission said in a statement. “However, full compliance by all Member States is essential to avoid market distortions and unfair competition. Member States who still allow the use of ‘un-enriched’ cages put businesses that invested in complying with the new measures at a disadvantage. To demonstrate compliance, Member States will need to show that all those establishments still using un-enriched cages have either been transformed or closed.”
The 10 countries have two months to show compliance with the law or face referral to the Court of Justice for legal action, the commission said.