UK government adds its dismay at poultry welfare stalemate

The British government has added its dismay at the collapse of talks that have been taking place over several years aimed at improving the welfare of meat chickens in the EU, as reported earlier this week on meatinfo.

Ministers had been expected to agree to new welfare rules in Brussels next week but the Finnish presidency has withdrawn them following strong opposition to the improvements from a number of countries.

Ben Bradshaw, UK animal welfare minister, said: "The welfare of broiler chickens is a major concern to the public here and elsewhere in Europe. We have worked very hard over more than two years on these proposals, which would have led to real improvements to chicken welfare in Europe.

"They were supported by most EU states, animal welfare groups and the UK broiler industry - which generally has high standards and wants to see a level playing field across the EU. I am dismayed that a small number of countries has blocked progress."

He added the UK government would try to persuade the forthcoming German presidency of the EU to return to the issue, however, he said he was not optimistic that this would be resolved soon.

The breakdown in talks has also caused anxiety among members of Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) and the British Poultry Council (BPC).

Peter Stevenson, chief policy advisor of CIWF, said it was vital that the talks were revived and chief executive of the BPC Peter Bradnock said the organisation had fully supported the directive.

Bradnock added: "We wanted it put through. Our concern is that we want all of Europe brought up to the same standards, because quite a lot of what is in that directive is a reflection of UK assurance production standards."