Today, on 10 June 2021, the European Parliament urged the European Commission to make cages for farmed animals illegal across the European Union by 2027, adopting a resolution on the ‘End the Cage Age‘ European Citizens’ Initiative.
The resolution was passed by an overwhelming majority, with 558 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) in favour to 37 against and 85 abstentions. It urges the Commission to revise the outdated EU directive on farmed animals, Directive 98/58/EC, in order to phase out cruel cage systems.
In the EU, at present, laying hens and rabbits are confined to spaces about the size of an A4 sheet of paper. Adult female pigs have to spend nearly half of every year inside crates, in which they cannot even turn around. Calves, geese and quail are also caged, preventing them from performing basic natural behaviours.
Parliamentarians agreed on the need to end these practices. They also highlighted the need to ensure that all products placed on the EU market – including imported ones – comply with future cage-free standards. They stressed the need to provide adequate incentives and financial programmes to support farmers through the transition.
In addition, the EU Parliament called on the Commission to “put forward proposals to ban the cruel and unnecessary force-feeding of ducks and geese for the production of foie gras.”
Parliamentarians also pushed the Commission to speed up its review of the EU’s animal welfare legislation, asking for this to be completed by 2022 instead of late 2023 as currently planned. This would help ensure that the ban is introduced within the mandate of the current Commission, which will leave office in 2024.
Moral, health & economic imperative
In today’s morning session, the Parliament also debated the resolution, with an extraordinary number of 45 MEPs taking the floor. The debate was attended by Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, who expressed support for the ‘End the Cage Age’ Initiative. She stated that the Commission’s commitment to improve the welfare of animals “does remain a moral, a health and an economic imperative.” “And for me, it is a personal commitment to strive for change,” she added.
Earlier, during a Parliament hearing in April, EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski highlighted that the Commission promises to work intensively to end the cage age — a clear indication that a proposal is in the making.
The Commission is expected to announce what steps it will take regarding the issue on 30 June this year.
Commenting on today’s resolution, Olga Kikou, Head of Compassion in World Farming EU and one of the citizens leading the ‘End the Cage Age’ European Citizens’ Initiative, said: “Citizens have been waiting for years to see the cages ban materialise. We are delighted that the European Parliament has taken a firm stance against cages. The time has come now for politicians to put words into action. From today on, the ball is in the Commission’s court. We expect nothing short of an ambitious timetable for ending the use of these outdated torture instruments called cages. Once this happens, the EU could truly claim global leadership in animal welfare.”
EP Eleonora Evi, Co-chair of the MEP working group on cage-free farming, stated: “Today marks a historical day in the fight for a cage-free Europe. By adopting with a large majority a resolution, which calls for a phase-out of the use of cages in EU animal farming, the European Parliament brought the EU a step closer to finally ending the cruel practice of caged farming, which every year condemns over 300 million animals to live in a cage. With this resolution we send an unequivocal message to the European Commission, which now needs to come forward with a legislative proposal to End the Cage Age and enable a transition to more humane, sustainable and healthier farming methods across the EU”.
MEP Anja Hazekamp, Co-chair of the MEP working group on cage-free farming, added: "Hundreds of millions of animals are locked up in cages for farming purposes in Europe every year. They live under horrible conditions, without any chance to exercise their natural behaviour. After the successful citizens' initiative, signed by 1.4 million citizens, the European Parliament now joins the widely supported call to free animals from their cages. The Left emphasizes that a legislative proposal must now be put forward without delay. All animal-cages in Europe must disappear at the latest by 2027."
1.4 million united against cages
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.
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, organisations campaigning for environmental protection, health and farming, as well as veterinary students and vets.