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[Poules en cages] Audience au Conseil d’État : la rapporteure publique nous donne raison !

By November 10th 2023November 23rd, 2023No Comments

Document type: Press release from OABA

Author : OABA

Press release: This Friday afternoon, 9 animal protection organizations petitioned the Conseil d'Etat for a partial repeal of the decree of December 15, 2021 concerning the refurbishment of farm buildings for caged laying hens. During the public session, the public rapporteur concluded that part of the decree was illegal, calling on France's highest executive body to comply with the NGOs' request.

An embarrassing commitment for the government...
In 2017, during his presidential campaign, Emmanuel Macron made "a commitment to ban the sale of eggs produced by battery hens by 2022 ". At Rungis, during his presidential speech, he reiterated his commitment and promised that " eggs sold to consumers would only come from free-range farms by 2022 ". In 2018, the Egalim law saw virtually all amendments designed to ban this farming system swept aside. All that remains is a ban on new or refurbished buildings for caged hens. Moreover, this slender advance has yet to be achieved since the Ministry of Agriculture, having initially resisted publication of an implementing decree, only complying after being compelled by the Conseil d'Etat to do so, then published a document in December 2021 that reduced the scope of the ban. It is this decree that the NGOs have therefore decided to challenge. And with good reason: it was discovered that the government had made a commitment to the industry to limit the notion of refurbishment to include only buildings where the refurbishment would increase their production capacity, displaying outrageous disregard for and distortion of the terms of the Law. The Minister for Agriculture at the time, Stéphane Travert, had indeed made this promise to the industry lobbiers in a letter that CIWF has succeeded in obtaining through the French administrative courts after two years of legal processes! 

The 9 NGOs who refused to give in  
The disputed decree states that "the following constitutes the
refurbishment of a building: 1° Work on or alteration of an existing building to convert it to the purpose of rearing laying hens in cages; 2° Work on or alteration of an existing building leading to an increase in the number of laying hens that can be reared in cages." On February 10, 2022, 9 French NGOs, all members of the coalition that produced the historic win for the 'End the Cage Age' European citizens' initiative, filed a joint petition to the Conseil d'État, calling for these paragraphs to be repealed. In the view of the petitioning NGOs, they impose illegal limits on the concept of refurbishment, since the operator of a building already in use for the rearing of laying hens in cages can undertake any works and redevelopment, however substantial, and yet escape the ban on refurbishment laid down in article L. 214-11 of the French Rural and Maritime Fishing Code, simply by continuing to keep the same number of laying hens. In their view, the text of the Egalim law is very clear: refurbishment is not enlargement. And otherwise, an existing cage-rearing building could be completely brought back to its original state and the cages returned to production for a further 20 years!

Hopes vested in the forthcoming Conseil d'Etat ruling
Today, November 10, 2023, at the hearing, the public rapporteur set out the case for the partial repeal of the decree before the Conseil d'Etat, as requested by the NGOs. She argued that "the decree fails to take into account the objective pursued by the law". Citing parliamentary debates on the matter and the positions expressed by the Minister and the President of the Republic, it was her view that "the law was intended to put an end to cage farming in response to societal expectations, while giving livestock farmers time to end investment in this system". For the public rapporteur, "the course was clearly set by the law, and the decree contravenes it by allowing reinvestment", whereas "article L214-11 aims precisely to arrange a gradual transition in order to avoid the hammer blow of a sudden ban". She concluded that the repeal of the decree, which "amounts to a perpetuation of cage farming" was required. In addition, she pointed out that "adopting a limited interpretation of the term 'refurbishment' would be a disservice to farmers", given that "the elimination of cages appears unavoidable".
The Conseil d'Etat is due to make its decision. It will issue its ruling in a few weeks' time.


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