BRUSSELS, Belgium, July 9, 2021 (ENS) – The European Commission has agreed to phase out cages for farmed animals across Europe in response to the “End the Cage Age,” campaign of a European Citizens’ Initiative, ECI, supported by over 1.4 million people and 170 organizations across the European Union.
In its reply to the ECI, the Commission has set out plans for a legislative proposal by 2023 to phase out and finally prohibit cages for many farm animals not protected by the current rules that cover only laying hens, broilers, sows and calves.
The Commission’s legislative proposal will cover animals the ECI has campaigned to uncage: rabbits, pullets, layer breeders, broiler breeders, quail, ducks and geese. For these animals and birds, the Commission has already asked European Food Safety Authority to add to the existing scientific evidence to determine the conditions needed for the prohibition of cages.
The proposal will also consider animals already covered by existing rules.
Since an end to cages will require changes to current farming systems, the Commission will consider the socio-economic and environmental implications of the measures to be taken and the benefits to animal welfare in an impact assessment to be completed before the end of 2022. A public consultation will be carried out by early 2022.
The Commission will assess the feasibility of working towards the proposed legislation entering into force from 2027.
Janusz Wojciechowski of Poland, Commissioner for Agriculture, said, “A sustainable food system cannot exist without high animal welfare standards. Thanks to our citizens, the Commission will be even more ambitious in this regard and phase out the use of cage systems for animal farms.”
“The Green Deal and its Farm to Fork Strategy, supported by the new Common Agricultural Policy, will be crucial in the transition to sustainable food systems,” Wojciechowski said. “This citizens’ initiative only confirms that this transition also responds to a societal demand for more ethical and sustainable farming.”
The proposal will come as part of the ongoing revision of the EU’s animal welfare legislation under the Farm to Fork Strategy. This Strategy is at the heart of the European Green Deal. It aims to make food systems fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly.
Ethical Farming ‘High Priority’ for European Commission
The Commission called the ECI’s campaign, “a demand for a transition to more ethical and sustainable farming systems, including a revision of existing EU animal welfare rules.”
“Responding to this societal demand is a high priority for the Commission, in line with its commitments in the Farm to Fork Strategy and the European Green Deal,” said the Commission, which is the executive branch of the EU government.
Stella Kyriakides of Cyprus, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said, “Animals are sentient beings and we have a moral, societal responsibility to ensure that on-farm conditions for animals reflect this.”
“Our commitment is clear: the phasing out of cages for farm animals will be part of our actions under the Farm to Fork Strategy and lead to more sustainable farming and food systems. I am determined to ensure that the EU remains at the forefront of animal welfare on the global stage and that we deliver on societal expectations,” Kyriakides said.
The Commission has already committed to proposing a revision of the animal welfare legislation, including on transport and rearing, to be finalized by the summer of 2022.
To facilitate a balanced and economically viable transition to cage-free farming, the Commission will seek supporting measures in key related policy areas, such as trade and research and innovation.
In particular, the new Common Agricultural Policy will provide financial support and incentives to help farmers upgrade to more animal-friendly facilities in line with the new standards.
The provisional political agreement reached June 25 by the European Parliament and Council on the new Common Agricultural Policy, CAP, introduces a fairer, greener, more animal friendly and flexible CAP.
Higher environmental and climate ambitions, aligned with Green Deal objectives, are to be implemented from January 2023.
The new CAP is intended to ensure a fairer distribution of CAP financial support, especially to small and medium-sized family farms and young farmers.
The Commission will also ensure that additional financial resources are made available to support farmers in the transition to cage-free systems.
Vice-President for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová of the Czech Republic said, “As the successful outcome of this Initiative shows, citizens’ input can make a real difference, leading to concrete legislative proposals from the Commission. We have heard the concerns of millions of people over the living conditions of farm animals and we will respond to it. My message to EU citizens is simple: the ECI is there for you, don’t hesitate to use it!”
The European Citizens’ Initiative, one of the key innovative tools to promote participatory democracy on the EU level, was launched in April 2012. An ECI allows one million citizens from at least seven EU Member States to invite the European Commission to propose legal action in areas where the Commission has the power to do so.
To date, the Commission has received 104 requests to launch an ECI. Out of these requests, 81 were in fields of EU competence and have been registered. Six have so far reached the threshold of one million signatures and were submitted to the Commission, End the Cage Age being the most recent one.
The ECI said, “Over 300 million farmed animals suffer in cages across Europe. This is cruel, unnecessary and has no place in Europe. Our movement seeks to ban cages completely.”
Featured image: Chickens peer out of their cage at a facility of the Latvian egg producer Balticovo, the largest in Northern Europe. Balticovo began transitioning to cage-free operations in January 2021. (Photo courtesy Balticovo)