Shooting community awaits decision on raised laying cages.

However, speculation is growing over whether or not DEFRA will be able to implement its code on gamebird welfare by April.

If DEFRA?s finalised Code of Practice for the Welfare of Game birds Reared for Sporting Purposes, which applies to all game farmers in England, is to make it on to the statute book by the target implementation date of 6 April, the minister for food, farming and environment, Jim Fitzpatrick, will have to sign it off imminently.

This is so that it can then go before Parliament for the required 40 sitting days.

The most contentious issue within the code is the question of whether or not raised laying cages should be allowed, and if so in what form.

DEFRA?s recently completed public consultation on the draft code presented stakeholders with three different options: (1) retaining the status quo; (2) requiring all raised units to be enriched and banning barren cages; or (3) banning cages altogether.

A spokesman for the Game Farmers? Association said DEFRA?s chosen option could be announced as early as next week, but Parliamentary protocol could slow the code?s progress down: ?The 40 days? rule is prescribed by law and it refers to days on which Parliament is sitting. The government has said it hopes to have the code in place by April on one of two official implementation dates on which laws come into effect (the other is in October). If the government is to meet its target date, the finalised code needs to come before Parliament early in February.?

Some fear this timetable is too tight for DEFRA?s analysis of the consultation to be completed, in which case implementation of the code could be delayed until October, well after the General Election.

BASC?s director of communications, Christopher Graffius, said he was sceptical DEFRA would be able to implement the code in nine weeks? time.

?The important thing is to do this job properly and that requires three elements. The first is that the code must be laid before Parliament 40 days before approval. The code does not need to come into effect on the day it is approved and it may be necessary to wait until October before that happens. The timetable also depends on other factors, including the pressures of work at DEFRA and the burden of business in the House.?

Responding to the speculation, a spokesman for DEFRA said: ?We are still aiming to implement the code in April, but it will of course be subject to Parliamentary timetabling.?

Talk to other readers about banning the use of raised laying cages.