Food companies called today on the European Union to phase out the use of cages in animal farming, starting with egg-laying hens. The businesses sent this request in a joint letter, signed by leading food producers Barilla, Ferrero, Mondelēz, Nestlé and Unilever, retailers ALDI Nord, Inter IKEA Group and Le Groupement Les Mousquetaires, as well as the Jamie Oliver Group and the egg producer Fattoria Roberti.
The letter commends the aims of the ‘End the Cage Age’ European Citizens’ Initiative, signed by 1.4 million EU citizens, which calls for a phaseout of cages in EU animal farming. The letter supports calls for the Commission to propose a phaseout of cages for hens, as a first step, in the revision of EU animal welfare laws currently under preparation.
Reforming the food industry from within
In the letter, the companies said they are “committed to reform the food industry, from within,” adding that “revision of animal welfare legislation presents the ideal opportunity for a legal basis to end the use of cages in EU animal farming, starting with caged hens, and supporting farmers in the transition.” The companies stated that “[c]age-free systems are widespread, economically viable, and provide better living conditions for hens.”
The letter points out that the business case for an EU phaseout of cages for hens in particular is strong. The signatory companies and over 1 000 other businesses across Europe — including retailers, manufacturers and food service providers — have eliminated caged eggs from their supply chain or have pledged to do so by 2025. Indeed, the majority of hens kept commercially in the EU are farmed in alternative systems, whether barn, free range or organic.
Inter IKEA Group’s Sharla Halvorson, Sustainability & Health Manager, Food, said: “At IKEA, we are happy to join other leading food businesses and 1.4 million people in supporting the development of EU legislation to drive forward this sector wide improvement — when we come together, large scale change is possible! We are committed to moving away from caged egg production by the end of 2025 and work continuously to improve animal agriculture and animal welfare through our Better Programmes.”
Unilever’s Thea Koning, Senior Global External Affairs Manager, Foods and Refreshment Division, said: “At Unilever we want to be a force for good in foods, and are fully supportive of the End the Cage Age campaign. In Europe, all our brands including Hellmann’s, Amora and Calvé have used 100% cage-free eggs since 2009. We believe the End the Cage Age Initiative shares the ambition of the Farm to Fork Strategy to improve animal welfare, starting with caged hens.”
The EU needs to catch up
“Many businesses are already ahead of the game, having phased out cages in their supply chains. A cage-free future is indeed possible and is already being enabled by some progressive companies,” said Olga Kikou, Head of Compassion in World Farming EU and Substitute Representative of the ‘End the Cage Age’ European Citizens’ Initiative.
Olga added: “The EU now needs to catch up and introduce new rules in line with citizens’ expectations. We call on the EU to revise its rules for farmed animals, Directive 98/58/EC, so that the cruel use of cages is brought to an end for all species.”
1.4 million citizens unite against cages
In October 2020, the European Commission received the European Citizens’ Initiative calling for an end to the use of cages in EU farming.
The ‘End the Cage Age’ Initiative was signed by 1.4 million people across Europe and is only the sixth successful Initiative since the EU launched this democracy tool eight years ago. It is the very first successful Initiative for farmed animals.
The Initiative is also supported by over 170 organisations, a group of cross-party Members of the European Parliament, the European Committee of the Regions and a group of over 140 scientists, including Dr. Jane Goodall.