Following our ‘End the Cage Age’ European Citizens’ Initiative, the EU Commission has requested from one of the EU agencies to look into stress caused to farmed animals kept in caged systems. This is great news, as it clearly demonstrates that the biggest political push for animal welfare at EU-level is starting to bear fruit!
The mandate of the EU agency
The mandate that the EU Commission gave to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is particularly ambitious. The agency’s research will focus on the causes of stress for farmed animals kept in cages, investigating cages for laying hens, pigs, calves and broilers. EFSA should thus provide a sound scientific basis for 'future legislative decisions.'
EFSA is expected to review the scientific publications regarding the welfare consequences of caged systems, including ‘the severity, duration and occurrence of each welfare consequence.’ The agency will need to ‘[p]rovide recommendations to prevent, mitigate or correct the welfare consequences.’
In its official requests to EFSA, the EU Commission clearly outlined the calls of European citizens regarding caged farming and it pinpointed to the fact that the ‘End the Cage Age’ European Citizens’ Initiative was a reason for initiating this study. In its online statement, EFSA also highlighted the role of the network of around 170 organisations supporting the Initiative.
The final result of EFSA’s research is expected to be published in 2022 for laying hens, broilers and pigs, and in 2023 for calves.
'End the Cage Age' European Citizens' Initiative
The ‘End the Cage Age’ European Citizens’ Initiative aims to abolish the use of caged farming in Europe. This Initiative is the biggest political push in the history of farmed animal welfare, having collected over 1 million signatures from all across the EU.
Every year over 300 million animals in Europe spend all, or a significant part, of their lives imprisoned in cages. Egg-laying hens and rabbits raised for meat are kept in space about the area of an A4 sheet of paper, and almost all sows spend half of every year inside cages, in which they cannot even turn around. This causes tremendous suffering, as these sentient beings cannot perform most of their natural behaviours.
More to be desired
In addition to cages for laying hens, sows, calves, and broiler breeders, the ‘End the Cage Age’ European Citizens’ Initiative calls for no cages to be used when farming rabbits, quail, ducks and geese.
Following a campaign by Compassion in World Farming and a subsequent request by the EU Parliament, EFSA recently looked into the welfare of farmed rabbits and concluded that the key welfare issue for adult rabbits is the restriction of movement caused by caged farming. Nonetheless, there is no current mandate to review the welfare issues facing quail, ducks and geese kept in caged systems.
However, we expect the EU Commission, or the EU Parliament, to also mandate EFSA to conduct a scientific review on these species.