MEPs throw weight behind call to end use of cages for farmed animals in EU

Over 300 million farmed animals are kept in cages each year in the EU.
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By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

25 Feb 2021

More than 140 scientists have backed the demand for an end to the use of cages in animal farming, including ethologist and conservationist Dr Jane Goodall, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute.

In a letter to the European Commission, the scientists point to a petition by 1.4 million people who recently signed the ‘End the Cage Age’ European Citizens’ Initiative urging the EU to phase out the use of all cages in farming.

Goodall said, “Most people today understand that birds are sentient beings. We have kept hens rescued from factory farms - each had a distinct personality, all showed emotions such as pleasure and fear.”

“A growing body of scientific research supports this, and there can be no doubt that life crammed into a small cage is causing great suffering. The EU needs to take action on behalf of the millions of hens and other animals treated in this cruel manner.”

In the letter, the scientists state that the “scientific argument against cages is clear – European farmed animals live miserable lives confined to small spaces. Many are denied important and basic natural behaviours and what makes a life worth living.”

“We call on the European Commission to update legislation to reflect what we all know to be true – no farmed animal should suffer in a cage,” the scientists write. “Collectively we support an end to the cage age.”

“Scientific research shows that cages have inherent severe disadvantages for animal welfare,” the letter states, adding that using cages is “inconsistent with the EU Treaty’s recognition of animals as sentient beings.”

“The inhumane practice of caged farming, which every year condemns over 300 million animals to spend their life locked in a cage, often of the size of an A4 sheet of paper, can no longer be tolerated” Eleonora Evi, Greens/EFA

The phaseout call targets so-called enriched cages for laying hens, stalls and farrowing crates for sows, cages for farmed rabbits, quail, ducks and geese, and individual pens for calves.

“In each case commercially viable alternatives exist that provide better welfare,” the scientists note.

Numerous MEPs support the ‘End the Cage Age’ campaign, including Anja Hazekamp, a Dutch GUE/NGL member, Francisco Guerreiro, a Portuguese member of the Greens group, Martin Hojsik, from the Renew Europe group and Manuel Bompard, a French GUE/NGL deputy.

Another MEP who supports the call to end the cage age is Italian Greens member Eleonora Evi ,who told this website, “The inhumane practice of caged farming, which every year condemns over 300 million animals to spend their life locked in a cage, often of the size of an A4 sheet of paper, can no longer be tolerated.”

Evi, who is co-chair of the MEP working group on cage-free farming, added, “The Commission has already admitted the need to improve animal welfare in the EU and in its Farm to Fork Strategy has announced a revision of the animal welfare legislation. Now it's time to put words into action and deliver what EU citizens are asking.”

“We need to transition away from intensive farming practices and towards the creation of a food system that respects human health, nature and is no longer based on animal cruelty and reckless exploitation.”

“A growing body of scientific research supports this, and there can be no doubt that life crammed into a small cage is causing great suffering. The EU needs to take action on behalf of the millions of hens and other animals treated in this cruel manner” Jane Goodall

She said, “I expect the Commission to take into serious consideration the requests of this European Citizens Initiative and come forward with an ambitious legislation to ban the use of cages in animal farming. This outstanding mobilisation and expression of civic engagement and participation cannot be ignored by our institutions.”

Further comment came from Olga Kikou, head of Compassion in World Farming EU, who said, “We are proud to have Jane Goodall and all the other scientists on board to support an end to the use of cages in animal farming.”

“The ‘End the Cage Age’ campaign has the backing of over 170 European organisations, dozens of MEPs, the European Committee of the Regions and 1.4 million EU citizens.”

She added, “All that is left now is for the Commission to respond by updating the outdated EU Directive 98/58/EC on the protection of animals kept for farming purposes, in order to bring it in line with the latest science and the expectations of the EU public.”

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