In a three-hour public hearing this morning on the European Citizens’ Initiative ‘End the Cage Age‘, which was signed by 1.4 million people across all EU member states, EU institutions received overwhelmingly that it is time that the EU abolished the cruel practice of imprisoning hundreds of millions of factory farmed animals in cages each year, as part of the run-up to an official European Commission response to the issue.
The ‘End the Cage Age’ Initiative was warmly welcomed by the three European Commissioners present during the debate and dozens of Members of the European Parliament, who made interventions.
Norbert Lins, Chair of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (Group of the European People’s Party, Germany) concluded that “most speakers welcomed this initiative” and noted that “the ball is now in the Commission’s court.”
This is a big moment for the ‘End the Cage Age’ European Citizens’ Initiative, whose culmination is expected in the next few months when the European Commission will give its formal response to the citizens’ call. The Initiative calls on the EU to phase out the use of cages in animal farming. Cages restrict farmed animals’ ability to move by confining them to small spaces, preventing them from exercising important natural behaviours such as wing-flapping or stretching out.
Věra Jourovà, Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for Values and Transparency, said during the hearing: “The Initiative is fighting for a cause that is topical in the current public debate to improve animal welfare for farmed animals and to invest in sustainable farming. These are valid objectives, which the Commission has embraced in its political ambitions to design fair, healthy, and environmentally-friendly food systems and which have found their way in the Farm to Fork Strategy adopted in May last year.”
Stella Kyriakides, Health and Food Safety Commissioner, said during the hearing: “We are taking steps to tangible action because, as I have repeatedly stated, animal welfare and animal health are very high on our agenda.” She added: “We are very much aware that we need to do more, and we need to strive for better. And we are absolutely determined to do so. The European Citizens’ Initiative is a timely reminder of that. It is a heartful example also at democracy at its best.”
Janusz Wojciechowski, Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner, said during the hearing that EU farm subsidies and recovery funds that “can also be used in part to phase out caged farming and implement alternative methods.” “You have the full support from the European Commission to implement this transformation,” he added.
Olga Kikou, Head of Compassion in World Farming EU and one of the citizens leading the ‘End the Cage Age’ European Citizens’ Initiative, said: “The EU claims to be a leader in animal welfare, yet every year it still condemns more than 300 million farmed animals to lives of cramped misery in cages. This medieval practice is not only cruel but also completely unnecessary since viable cage-free systems exist and are in use in some parts of the EU.
“A number of pioneering member states and businesses have led the way in ditching cages and now it is time for the rest of the EU to catch up. In line with the ambitions of the European Green Deal and Farm to Fork strategy, we call on the European Commission to propose a phaseout of cages in farming through a revision of the 1998 Directive on the protection of farmed animals,” she concluded.