Some 90,000 Belgians have signed on to a European citizens’ initiative (ECI) against the rearing of farm animals in cages.
In Europe as a whole, the Stop the Cages petition has collected more than 1.5 million signatures since being launched in September 2018 by 170 animal rights, environmental and consumer associations and NGOs. Their aim is to nudge States into banning the caging of livestock.
In Europe, about 370 million animals are raised in this way, while the figure for Belgium is 4.15 million. These include 3.7 million layers, 39% of the total, confined to their cages in Belgium.
The Gaia animal rights organisation had launched its “Exit the cages” campaign last year, with athlete Kevin Borlée as one of the ambassadors.
“This is the biggest socio-political initiative ever organised for the well-being of livestock,” Gaia President Michel Vandenbosch said. “It’s now up to the European Commission to implement the changes requested by the citizens of the European Union. We can no longer accept the rearing of animals in cages, which is cruel.”
The ECI is a citizens’ participation tool established in 2007 by the Lisbon treaty that allows the Commission to be petitioned on issues at the initiative of grassroots groups. For the Commission or Parliament to admit and respond to an ECI, it needs to obtain at least one million signatures in one year in at least seven European Union countries.
“We counted one and a half million signatures, so we are sure of having at least one million that will be validated by the EU,” said Claire Hincelin of Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) the organisation that coordinated the collection of the signatures throughout Europe.
The Commission headed by Jean-Claude Juncker has so far registered 30 ECIs, three of which were rejected. The most emblematic one called for a ban of the controversial herbicide glyphosate. It led to a review of the transparency laws in the risk-assessment process in the area of food security.