Comment: this government clearly doesn’t value welfare or the environment

By Mark Williams, chief executive of the British Egg Industry Council

No one can have escaped the reports in the media on what is currently taking place in Parliament. Who knows if we are going to leave the EU, or if we do, on what terms? But one thing is clear following this whole charade, is that the government does not value laying hen welfare or environmental standards in the UK, judged by their recent action.

When the government published their tariff regime in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, the BEIC was dismayed at the exclusion of egg and egg products from receiving protection. This despite us commissioning extensive research in the immediate aftermath of the referendum on why tariffs are required and constantly relaying it to government. Therefore, their decision was made more baffling.

The evidence is clear. 16% of the cost of UK egg production comes from legislation on animal welfare, environmental protection and food safety. We have banned conventional cages, a system of production that many other countries outside the EU continue to use. The government continues to make statements that we should continue to increase animal welfare and environmental standards through the welfare codes; they want us to stop beak treatment; and there are provisions within the Agriculture Bill for further increases in standards and therefore costs.

But when it came down to the decision to protect hen welfare and our industry, they bottled it. Their decision sends the signal that they have no genuine interest in upholding and improving laying hen welfare. With the RSPCA and CIWF, who are equally baffled by their decision, we have sent a joint letter to government asking for this decision to be reversed. We have also issued Freedom of Information requests to ascertain why eggs and egg products were excluded from the tariff list and are pressing various government departments. We will continue to fight this unjustified decision.

Regardless of deal or no deal, the government has made a statement of intent regarding hen welfare; that it is not that important.

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