In Europe, hundreds of millions of farm animals spend most, or all, of their lives in cages. The European Citizens’ Initiative to End the Cage Age calls for a ban on all cages in animal farming, including pens used to isolate young calves.
A new undercover investigation released yesterday (22 July) by Compassion in World Farming exposes incidents of EU law infringement in Poland, such as calves completely unable to see and touch each other and calves being kept isolated in pens that were too small for them or being kept there beyond the permitted age of 8 weeks.
According to the animal welfare organisation, the findings reveal the cruelty of current EU standards. EU farmers can legally raise calves in small, individual pens, where they are isolated and not being able to express natural behaviours.
“This investigation confirms what has often been documented in the last few years: caged systems used in many EU countries are equally cruel,” says Olga Kikou, head of the EU office of Compassion in World Farming.
“Worse still, EU law allows this, despite evidence that group housing from birth can provide welfare and health benefits.”
She is also a substitute Member of the Citizens’ Committee of the European Citizens’ Initiative End the Cage Age. The Initiative was established in September 2018 and is supported by a network of over 170 organisations across Europe. It has by now collected more than the 1 million signatures required for the European Commission to take action.
The signature collection will continue until 11 September 2019. The results will then be submitted to the competent authorities in each Member State, who will validate the signatures.
Across Europe, around 20 million calves are born to dairy cows each year. Of these, research suggests that 60% are confined and spend part or all of the first eight weeks of their lives isolated. This amounts to over 12 million dairy calves across the EU each year.
In the EU, calves are permitted to be kept in individual pens up to the age of 8 weeks after which they must be put into groups. Where calves are kept in individual pens, a directive requires that they can see and touch each other.