July 2, 2021

Campaigners have welcomed a decision by the European Commission to ban the use of cages for farm animals in the 27-member bloc.

The commission agreed on Wednesday [30th June] to bring in the rules after the European Parliament voted heavily in favour of a ban earlier this month.

Officials are due to bring in legislation by the end of 2023 that will phase out and then prohibit cages, action that was called for by a petition signed by 1.4 million Europeans in a campaign called, “End the Cage Age”.

Stella Kyriakides, the European Commissioner for health and food safety, said in a statement that animals were sentient beings and there was “a moral, societal responsibility to ensure that on-farm conditions for animals reflect this”.

“[This] response is a key step towards an ambitious revision of the animal welfare legislation in 2023, a priority since the beginning of my mandate,” she said.

“Our commitment is clear: the phasing out of cages for farm animals will be part of our actions under the Farm to Fork Strategy and lead to more sustainable food and farming systems.

“I am determined to ensure that the EU remains at the forefront of animal welfare on the global stage and we deliver on societal expectations.”

The plans will outlaw the caging of calves, ducks, geese, hens, mother pigs, quail, rabbits and other animals, with hundreds of millions of creatures affected.

Farm to Fork

Also as part of the EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy, a European Commission initiative “for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system”, changes to the way animals are reared and transported have previously been agreed.

A public consultation on the new proposals to outlaw cages will be carried out by early 2022 “at the latest” and the commission will consider whether it is feasible for the legislation to enter into force from 2027.

The European Commission said that, through the Common Agricultural Policy, there would be financial support and incentives to help farmers make their premises more animal friendly. Member states will also be able to draw on funds from other initiatives to subsidise the move to cage-free agriculture.


Animal welfare

Campaigners are keen to see cages replaced by free-range farming regimes, such as at this farm in eastern England.

In a statement, Olga Kikou, head of EU for the animal welfare organisation Compassion in World Farming, described the European Commission’s decision as an “historic” one that would “leave a legacy for farm animals”.

“Citizens demanded change and the commission received the message loud and clear, making an unequivocal and visionary commitment to phase out cages,” she said.

“The tide is finally turning. We will stay focused on the European institutions until they deliver on this ambition and will be vigilant in preventing vested interests from watering it down.

“Factory farming is the biggest cause of cruelty to sentient creatures on the planet. Ending the use of cages is a massive step towards ending factory farming.”

The organisation has called on the British government to follow suit so as to “not get left trailing behind the EU in improving farm animal welfare”.

End the Cage Age” was a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), being the product of a programme that allows the public to influence the EU’s legislative agenda.

Having launched in September 2018, End the Cage Age closed a year later and exceeded the required threshold of 1 million signatures by nearly 400,000.

It is the first ECI on farm animal welfare to succeed and the sixth successful ECI overall, out of 75 registered during the past decade. Campaigners say a coalition of 170 non-governmental organisations supported End the Cage Age.

The first farm animal welfare legislation was introduced in what became the EU in 1974 and currently consists of a general directive, which sets out basic principles while giving countries the option to adopt tougher rules, and four specific directives on laying hens, broiler chickens, calves and pigs.

Click here for more stories on worldwide farming initiatives.

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