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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 January 2008, 21:30 GMT
Battery farm eggs banned by 2012
Battery hens in Suffolk
Britain is to press ahead with a ban on battery-farmed eggs by 2012
Britain will press ahead with outlawing the production of battery-farmed eggs by 2012, the government has confirmed.

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said he had been under pressure to postpone the proposed EU ban. Some farmers say they need more time to adjust.

Animal welfare groups such as the RSPCA say each battery hen is crammed into a space which is often smaller than an A4 sheet of paper.

Mr Benn said it was "right" to stop housing chickens in small cages.

'Long overdue'

He said there was sufficient evidence to show that more compassionate production was the way forward.

"There have been some people who have been arguing we should delay the implementation of that ban," said Mr Benn.

It's ridiculous legislation to totally and utterly rehouse basically 70% of the UK's egg industry
Duncan Priestner
Egg farmer

"It's not a view that I share, I think it is a change that is long overdue.

"I think it's one that the public supports."

But egg farmers say they need more time to prepare for the changes.

Duncan Priestner told the BBC it would be very difficult to make the necessary changes within four years.

"I think it's ridiculous legislation to totally and utterly rehouse basically 70% of the UK's egg industry, [it's] just not long enough," said Mr Priestner.

The government's environment department, Defra, estimates that 63% of eggs produced in the UK are from battery farms while 32% are free range.

The remaining 5% are barn eggs from birds reared indoors and without cages.

Marks & Spencer and Waitrose have already stopped selling eggs from caged hens.

Sainsbury's, Morrisons and the Co-op have announced plans to phase out the sale of battery eggs.

But farmers warn that as long as consumers demand cheap food, the move towards free range produce will be a slow one.



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Inside a battery poultry farm



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