Greece, Italy in trouble for mistreating hens

The European Commission on Thursday referred Greece and Italy to the European Court of Justice for failing to improve the living conditions of egg-laying hens kept in cramped cages.

The two countries were given 12 years to enforce 1999 norms for egg-laying hens, millions of which are kept cooped up in cages no bigger than a standard sheet of typing paper, the Commission said.

"Greece and Italy so far, despite repeated calls by the Commission to address the situation, have failed to adequately comply with applicable EU law," it said.

Under the new rules, which were to have been enforced by January 1 this year, battery hens must be kept in so-called "enriched cages," with "extra space to nest, scratch and roost."

That means at least 750 square centimetres of space as well as a nest-box, litter, perches and claw-shorteners "to satisfy their biological and behavioural needs."

Greece and Italy were among 10 nations asked to comply in June last year.