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Civil society backs promised EU end to cages in farming

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News Section Icon Published 27/04/2021

Today, civil society groups campaigning on environmental protection, public health, sustainable food and farming, rural livelihoods and citizens’ interests called on the European Commission to implement its promise to phase out caged animal farming.

In their letter, the 15 civil society groups asked the Commission to implement the promised phaseout of cages to “help address the inter-related public health, rural employment, environmental and animal welfare crises linked to caged animal farming as a central prop of industrial animal agriculture.”

To prevent a major loophole in the expected law, they also called on the EU to ensure that imports will meet EU animal welfare and environmental standards.

The number signatories include organisations such as the European Environmental Bureau, Greenpeace, IFOAM organics Europe, the European Public Health Alliance and Slow Food Europe.

Combatting the central prop of factory farming

When animals are concentrated in large numbers in confined spaces, they do not experience a life worth living. There is a great deal of scientific evidence that farmed animals suffer in cages, yet every year in the EU over 300 million still spend all or part of their lives in cages, pens or stalls.

Cyprus Pigs Investigation 2013 (1)
Crates for pregnant pigs
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'Enriched' cages for hens

The letter notes that caged animal farming is a central prop of industrial animal agriculture, “which not only causes massive animal suffering but is a major contributor to the public health, climate, biodiversity and rural employment crises.”

The impacts of intensive and unsustainable animal farming include the increasing emergence of zoonotic diseases, air pollution, unhealthy overconsumption of animal products, greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss, including deforestation, ocean dead zones and freshwater degradation, and consolidation of agribusiness which threatens the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, the NGOs say.

Keeping the promise

The civil society groups wrote to the Commission following a 15 April European Parliament hearing at which the ‘End the Cage Age’ European Citizens’ Initiative received overwhelming support from MEPs and other key EU institutions, including members of the Commission.

Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski told the hearing there was “full support” from the Commission to implement the necessary transformation. “The Commission promises you to work intensively to put this into legislation,” he said.

Health and Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides also noted: “We are taking steps to tangible action because, as I have repeatedly stated, animal welfare and animal health are very high on our agenda.”

Olga Kikou, Head of Compassion in World Farming EU, commented: “I welcome the Commission’s expression of full support for the ‘End the Cage Age’ Initiative and its promise to work intensively to put the necessary transformation of animal farming into legislation. As these NGOs call for in their letter, we now need the Commission to revise the 1998 directive on farmed animals as soon as possible to phase out the use of cages in EU agriculture. The end to cages cannot come quickly enough for the more than 300 million farmed animals that, each year in the EU, are forced to spend all or part of their lives confined in cruel cages that prevent them from performing many of their natural behaviours.”

1.4 million citizens unite against cages

The ‘End the Cage Age’ European Citizens' Initiative was signed by 1.4 million people across Europe and is only the sixth successful Initiative since the EU launched this democracy tool ten 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, a group of over 140 scientists representatives of the business community and veterinary students and vets.

Schuman Square, October 2019
Schuman Square, October 2019
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