EU commissioners welcome campaign to end caged farming

The three commissioners were speaking in a public hearing on the European Citizens’ Initiative, ‘End the Cage Age’, which has now been signed by 1.4 million people across all Member States.
Adobe Stock

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

22 Apr 2021

Věra Jourová, vice-president of the 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.”

She told MEPs, “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.”

Further comment came from Stella Kyriakides, health and food safety commissioner, who told the hearing the EU was taking “tangible action because, as I have repeatedly stated, animal welfare and animal health are very high on our agenda.”

She went on, “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 ECI [European Citizens’ Initiative] is a timely reminder of that. It is a heartful example also at democracy at its best.”

A third commissioner, Janusz Wojciechowski, responsible for the agriculture and rural development dossier, told MEPs that EU farm subsidies and recovery funds “can also be used in part to phase out caged farming and implement alternative methods.”

He told members they had “the full support from the Commission to implement this transformation.”

“The enormous support received by the ECI throughout Europe cannot be ignored by the Commission, which needs to come forward with a legislative proposal to end the unnecessary cruelty of caged farming as soon as possible” Eleonora Evi, Greens/EFA

EPP German member Norbert Lins, chair of Parliament’s committee on agriculture and rural development, said that most speakers had welcomed the initiative and told the commissioners that “the ball is now in the Commission’s court.”

Olga Kikou, head of Compassion in World Farming EU, said the comments by the three commissioners represented “a big moment” for the ‘End the Cage Age’ ECI, whose culmination is expected in the next few months when the Commission will give its formal response to the citizens’ call.

The ECI calls on the EU to phase out the use of cages in animal farming. It is claimed that 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.

Other MEPs also spoke out in support of the campaign during the three-hour hearing, including Italian Greens member Eleonora Evi, vice-president of the animal welfare intergroup and co-chair of its cage-free working group, who said the meeting marked “another fundamental step towards the objective of a cage-free Europe.”

She added, “Together with many like-minded MEPs, we gave a voice to the over 300 million animals that every year, in the EU alone, spend all, or a significant part, of their lives imprisoned in cages.”

“Cages are cruel, but also outdated and unnecessary. It’s a milestone that more than 1.4 million citizens have stood up for these animals to put an end to the ‘cage age’. We are now looking at the Commission and Member States to prove that they take their call seriously” Anja Hazekamp, The Left

“The enormous support received by the ECI throughout Europe cannot be ignored by the Commission, which needs to come forward with a legislative proposal to end the unnecessary cruelty of caged farming as soon as possible, bringing EU farming practices closer to our citizens’ expectations and more aligned with nature and the protection of public health.”

Another deputy, Dutch The Left MEP Anja Hazekamp, president of the animal welfare intergroup in  Parliament, said, “Hundreds of millions of animals in Europe are locked up in cages for farming purposes. These animals have no chance to exercise their natural behaviours and the conditions in which these animals are kept are so bad that their lives become one big agony.”

“Cages are cruel, but also outdated and unnecessary. It’s a milestone that more than 1.4 million citizens have stood up for these animals to put an end to the 'cage-age'. We are now looking at the commission and the Member States to prove that they take their call seriously, and that they take the ECI as a democratic instrument seriously.”

“A legislative proposal to ban the use of cages in agriculture must be put forward without delay.”

Another speaker at the hearing, Bo Algers, veterinarian and professor emeritus at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, said, “EU law for farmed animals is incredibly outdated. Since 1998, when the EU adopted its Directive on the protection of farmed animals, the output from the animal welfare science has on average been tenfold. Today, we have a much better understanding of how physical, physiological and psychological factors relate to animal welfare.”

“A wide range of species-specific ethological needs are not, or cannot be, provided in a cage, whether enriched or not. It is now crystal clear that cages, due to their inherent physical and behavioural restriction, cannot provide good welfare, no matter how good the management.”

Share this page