For three years, the fate of the 16 million laying hens reared in cages in France has been hinged on an at least technical debate around the notion of “Refitted livestock building”. A provision of the Agriculture and Food Law (EGalim), voted and promulgated in 2018, provided for a ban on the construction of new buildings for breeding caged laying hens, or on “rearranging” buildings by housing cages. Summoned at the end of May by the Council of State to issue a decree, the government specified in the Official newspaper, Wednesday December 15, the terms of application of the article.
While the moratorium on new construction is unambiguous, the definition of “refurbished building” adopted by the government is limited to “Work or improvements to an existing building, leading to an increase in the number of laying hens that can be reared there in cages”. In other words, only works that would lead to an expansion of the operation are affected by the ban. Investments in cages will be able to continue if the production volume remains at constant perimeter.
“The government betrays the spirit of the law”
The moratorium voted by parliamentarians in 2018 was intended to facilitate the transition to non-cage farming systems, without penalizing current producers, by ensuring that farmers do not engage in costly financing that would extend the duration. life of the cages. “By allowing new investments in cages to continue, the government is betraying the spirit of the law passed by the legislators”, castigates Agathe Gignoux, public affairs officer at Compassion in World Farming France (CIWF), at the origin of the appeal before the Council of State. The association, with the support of other NGOs, announces that it will file a new appeal against this decree.
“I do not know of any breeder who is ready to invest to extend the [durée de] life of its cages “, wants to reassure Maxime Chaumet, secretary general of the National Committee for the Promotion of Eggs (CNPO), which praises the efforts of producers in this area: in 2020, the share of laying hens in cages was 36%, against 69% five years ago. “We must ban the construction of new buildings and ban increasing production capacities. But if a breeder has to redo the ventilation, he must be able to do it without changing his entire installation ”, continues Mr. Chaumet.
Recognizing the progress of the sector, CIWF nevertheless regrets the lack of political support in this transition: in 2017, during the presidential campaign, Emmanuel Macron made the promise that there would be no more in the shops. “Battery-laying hen eggs”, but a few months from the end of its mandate, the government has not committed to a deadline for an exit from the cages.
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Moratorium on laying hens in cages: a government decree challenged