MEPs throw weight behind ‘End the Cage Age’ campaign

A letter to the European Commission supports calls for the executive to propose a phase-out of the use of cages for farmed animals, starting with laying hens.
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By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

18 Mar 2021

The letter states that the “revision of animal welfare legislation presents the ideal opportunity for a legal basis to end the use of cages in EU animal farming, starting with caged hens, and supporting farmers in the transition.”

It notes that “cage-free systems are widespread, economically viable, and provide better living conditions for hens.”

The letter has been signed by leading food producers, including Barilla, Ferrero, Mondelēz International, Nestlé and Unilever, retailers ALDI Nord, Inter IKEA Group and Le Groupement Les Mousquetaires, as well as the Jamie Oliver Group and the egg producer Fattoria Roberti.

Finnish EPP deputy Sirpa Pietikäinen told this website, “The world is changing and the ‘cage age’ is ending. The call from the major actors is a clear signal that we need to act in Europe fast, and answer the citizens’ call in the 'End the Cage Age’ European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI).”

She added, “Some companies are already ahead of the requirements for the EU farm subsidies, or the CAP, and European regulation. This should also be a must in the upcoming taxonomy delegated acts in order to make finance sustainable.”

Pietikäinen is honorary president of Parliament’s Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals and a member of its cage-free working group.

“There are no more excuses - the Commission must put forward an ambitious legislative proposal to put an end to this cruel practice that forces over 300 million animals in Europe to spend their life trapped in a cage, unable to express most of their natural behaviour” Eleonora Evi, Greens/EFA

Further comment came from French Renew Europe member Pascal Durand, who also told this website, “This letter written by large producers and distributors demonstrates the necessity to have a complete harmonisation of rules on the entire single market.”

He said, “If we don’t phase out cages for farmed animals at EU level, European consumers will never be able to know whether the products they buy come from cage-based farming or not. It’s high time that the Commission comes forward with a proposal to end the cage age.”

Italian Greens member Eleonora Evi, co-chair of the  working group on cage-free farming of the Animal Welfare Intergroup, also told this site, “The support of leading food companies to the ECI ‘End the Cage Age’ shows that a transition to cage-free farming is not just possible but it is already a reality for many companies in the EU.”

“Now that a significant part of the industry has joined the call of the 1,4 million citizens who have signed the ECI, there are no more excuses - the Commission must put forward an ambitious legislative proposal to put an end to this cruel practice that forces over 300 million animals in Europe to spend their life trapped in a cage, unable to express most of their natural behaviour.”

She added, “The COVID-19 crisis has shed light on the increasing health risks associated with intensive farming, such as caged farming. If we want to build a sustainable food system that respects the environment and human health, we must transition away from such practices.”

The letter to the Commission commends the aims of the ‘End the Cage Age’ European Citizens’ Initiative, signed by 1.4 million EU citizens.

“The world is changing and the ‘cage age’ is ending. The call from the major actors is a clear signal that we need to act in Europe fast, and answer the citizens’ call in the 'End the Cage Age’ European Citizens’ Initiative”

Sirpa Pietikäinen, EPP

It claims that the business case for an EU phase out of cages for hens in particular is “strong.”

The signatory companies and over 1,000 other businesses across Europe - including retailers, manufacturers and food service providers - have eliminated caged eggs from their supply chain or have pledged to do so by 2025.

Currently, the majority of hens kept commercially in the EU are farmed in alternative systems, whether barn, free range or organic.

Barilla Group’s Leonardo Mirone, purchasing director, said, “We believe that confinement is harmful for the wellbeing of laying hens. We started abandoning this farming practice in 2012 and since 2019 - a year in advance of our initial target - we have been using cage-free eggs exclusively, throughout our global supply chain.”

Ferrero’s Francesco Tramontin said the company had been using only cage-free eggs in Europe since 2014, adding, “We believe this should be the standard for everyone. We, therefore, fully support the End the Cage Age European Citizens’ Initiative.”

Inter IKEA Group’s Sharla Halvorson, Sustainability & Health Manager, Food, said, “We are committed to moving away from caged egg production by the end of 2025.”

“If we don’t phase out cages for farmed animals at EU level, European consumers will never be able to know whether the products they buy come from cage-based farming or not. It’s high time that the Commission comes forward with a proposal to end the cage age” Pascal Durand, Renew Europe

Elsewhere, Nestlé’s Owen Bethell, Senior Manager Environmental Impact, Global Public Affairs, said, “We hope the End the Cage Age Initiative will help improve welfare for all laying hens in the EU”, while Unilever’s Thea Koning said, “the End the Cage Age Initiative shares the ambition of the Farm to Fork Strategy to improve animal welfare, starting with caged hens.”

Further comment came from Olga Kikou, Head of Compassion in World Farming EU, who said, “Many businesses are already ahead of the game, having phased out cages in their supply chains. A cage-free future is indeed possible and is already being enabled by some progressive companies.”

“The EU now needs to catch up and introduce new rules in line with citizens’ expectations. We call on the EU to revise its rules for farmed animals so that the cruel use of cages is brought to an end for all species.”

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