The European Commission decided yesterday to put forward a legislative proposal by 2023 to prohibit the use of cages for millions of farmed animals.
The decision in a form of a Communication is a response to the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) “End the Cage Age”, which was supported by ca 1.4 million citizens across all EU member states. It will come as part of the ongoing revision of the animal welfare legislation under the Farm to Fork Strategy.
A public consultation will be carried out at the latest by early 2022. The Commission will assess the feasibility of working towards the proposed legislation entering into force from 2027.
According to the Commission, the Citizens’ Initiative reflects a demand for a transition to more ethical and sustainable farming systems, including a revision of existing EU animal welfare rules. Responding to this societal demand is a high priority for the Commission, in line with its commitments in the Farm to Fork Strategy and the European Green Deal.
Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said: “Animals are sentient beings and we have a moral, societal responsibility to ensure that on-farm conditions for animals reflect this.”
“Today’s response is a key step towards an ambitious revision of the animal welfare legislation in 2023, a priority since the beginning of my mandate. I am determined to ensure that the EU remains at the forefront of animal welfare on the global stage and that we deliver on societal expectations,” she added.
Since 2018, animal welfare NGO Compassion in World Farming has been leading a coalition of over 170 organisations from across Europe in support of the Initiativewhich calls on the EU to revise the 1998 Council Directive 98/58/EC on the protection of animals and phase out all cages in EU animal farming by 2027. The initiative is supported by scientists and food companies in the EU.
While all farm animals benefit from current legislation on the protection of animals, only laying hens, broilers, sows and calves are covered by rules on caging. The Commission commits to table, by the end of 2023, a legislative proposal to phase out, and finally prohibit, the use of cage systems for all animals mentioned in the Initiative.
For rabbits, pullets, layer breeders, broiler breeders, quail, ducks and geese, the Commission has already asked EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) to complement the existing scientific evidence to determine the conditions needed for the prohibition of cages.
As part of its Farm to Fork Strategy, the Commission has already committed to propose a revision of the animal welfare legislation, including on transport and rearing, which is currently undergoing a fitness check, to be finalised by the summer of 2022.
The Commission also plans to facilitate an economically viable transition to cage-free farming by providing financial support and incentives through the eco-schemes instrument in the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
The coalition behind the Initiative greeted the Commission’s decision as a historic victory for the animal advocacy movement.
“The long-awaited day has finally come! Today, the European Commission made a big step to leave a legacy for animals – those locked in cages as innocent prisoners who have committed no crime,” commented Olga Kikou, Head of Compassion in World Farming EU and one of the citizens leading the European Citizens’ Initiative.
“We will stay focused on the European institutions until they deliver on this ambition and will be vigilant in preventing vested interests from watering it down,” she added.
“We’re thrilled by the incredible result of the End the Cage Age ECI,” said Reinkeke Hameleers, CEO of Eurogroup for Animals. “The European Commission’s commitment to ban cages across Europe will have a huge impact for millions of animals, with no animal left behind.”