The British Egg Industry Council (BEIC), the RSPCA and Compassion In World Farming (CIWF) reacted angrily to the Government’s refusal to add eggs and egg products to the list of foods protected by tariffs in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Despite the parliamentary vote that the UK will not leave the EU without a deal, legally, it is still a possibility regardless of any extension to the 29 March deadline being granted.
BEIC chairman Andrew Joret said: “The Government is trampling over all the good work the industry has done to raise animal welfare standards.
“In a few weeks’ time, consumers could be eating products made with eggs from hens housed in barren battery cages. This is not scaremongering but a real risk.
“This is extremely damaging welfare and a serious breach of trust by a Government that seems to have lost its way on hen welfare.”
The RSPCA and BEIC have written an open letter to Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove, to call on the Government to reconsider its stance before it is too late.
Joret added: “We could see the country going to work on an egg from a barren battery cage, something we didn’t think we would ever return to. The Government should hang its head in shame.”
CIWF and BEIC have also warned that billions of eggs from battery cages could be back on menus if there is a no-deal Brexit, unless the Government acts to protect British consumers.
They said this could potentially open the floodgates for the import of eggs produced in barren battery cages that were banned in the UK in 2012.
Joret said: “It would be a national disgrace if the Government were to remove tariffs to allow eggs into this country that do not meet even the most basic of welfare standards.
“It is seven years since we banned barren battery cages in the UK and consumers would justifiably feel betrayed if this were to happen.”
He also highlighted concerns about questionable food safety record of many egg-producing countries.
Joret added: “The BEIC keeps a global list of issues associated with eggs from other countries and we have almost lost count of the number we have seen, which could out consumer safety at risk – everything from salmonella to Fipronil. We also need to ensure UK consumers are protected from this.”
CIWF chief policy adviser Peter Stevenson outlined how leaving the EU without a deal will impact eggs.
He said: “We urge the Government, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, to place tariffs on imported eggs otherwise eggs – and particularly egg products – from battery hens could flood into the UK undermining our farmers.
“If the Government fails to protect UK farmers from cheap, low-welfare imports, it will be impossible for it to honour its commitment to using Brexit to achieve gold standard levels of animal welfare.”