Cage-Free Farming

Cage-Free Farming

 

The EU recognizes that animals are sentient beings. However, over 300 million farm animals, including hens, quail, rabbits, sows and ducks, are being confined in cages on EU farms each year. The use of cages in farming deprives the animals of their autonomy, rendering them solely dependent on their keepers for essential needs such as food or water. It severely limits their ability to meet essential behavioural, physical and psychological needs.

Many farm animals are kept in cages for all or much of their lives. Scientific research shows that this implies very poor welfare outcomes. Cages provide very limited space for the animals, sometimes both vertically and horizontally. They prevent them from performing basic postural changes such as sitting, standing up, walking or turning around. The restriction of movement and exercise causes consequent health problems such as low bone density. Cages prohibit animals from expressing natural behavioural repertoire leading to frustration of mental needs. They isolate animals or keep them in small tightly-packed groups. They prevent them from escaping aggressive behaviour from cage-mates and can help spread diseases. Caging is cruel but also unnecessary: viable cage-free alternative with high welfare systems exist.

Over the last years, the cage-free movement has been gaining ground in the EU and in the US. More voices are taking a stand against the use of cages in farming and speaking out against ‘enriched’ cages. California, for example, has taken the lead and recently banned the use of any form of cages for hens from 2022, as well as the sale of agricultural products that don’t meet these requirements.

As consumers are expecting higher welfare standards when buying animal products, major retailers on both sides of the Atlantic are adopting cage-free farming. At the same time, animal advocacy organizations are consistently embracing the call for an end to the use of cages in animal farming and are actively campaigning on this issue.

The adoption of the INI Report on Minimum Standards for the Protection of Farm Rabbits (2016/2077/(INI)) is the latest political success in a series of recent developments. It highlights the growing citizens’ concerns and the political will to address the situation.

 

The Working Group

To address these concerns, the Intergroup decided in October 2017 to set up a new ad-hoc working group, headed by Stefan Eck MEP (GUE/NGL, DE) and Eleonora Evi MEP (EFD², IT). The working Group includes representatives from several other political groups.

The Working Group has the following missions:

  • Raise awareness in the European Parliament about the serious welfare issues surrounding the use of cages in animal farming;
  • Present the problems along with solutions & actions MEPs propose to take;
  • Put pressure on the Commission and Member States to consider legislation that leads to the end of cages in EU farming;
  • Host and participate in a number of events in the European Parliament;
  • Support local campaigns at Member State level and act as spokespersons;
  • Join public campaign activities in order to apply further pressure and draw attention to the issue;
  • Prompt press interest in Brussels and elsewhere in Europe;
  • Gather support and present, in due course, a Resolution calling on the Commission to produce a timeline and legislation aiming at ending the use of cages.

The main objective of the Working Group will be to support and promote a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI): End the Cage Age. It aims to see citizens throughout the whole EU taking a stand against cruel caged systems and to carry their voices inside the EU institutions.

End the Cage Age

The ECI “End the Cage Age” is promoted by a network of over 140 NGOs and federations across Europe and aims to end the use of cages in EU farming. It was launched on the 25th of September 2018 with a conference and a week-long exhibition on “END THE CAGE AGE” hosted by Eleonora Evi MEP and Compassion in World Farming. Twenty-one MEPs from most political groups (EPP, S&D, EFDD, Greens/EFA, GUE/NGL and ECR) and from 13European countries spoke at the launch.

In addition, related events have been held in many Member States with the support of MEPs and national NGOs, and others are planned up until September 2019.

End the Cage Age aims to raise the profile of the issues relating to the use of cages both to the general public and among key policy makers. It will build the movement of citizens calling for an end to the use of cages in farming and, ultimately, push the European Commission to consider new legislation that contributes to the end of the use of cages in EU farming.

The campaign invites the Commission to prohibit the use of:

  • cages for farmed rabbits, pullets, broiler breeders, quail, ducks and geese;
  • enriched cages for laying hens;
  • farrowing crates for sows;
  • sow stalls, where not already prohibited;
  • enclosed calf pens, where not already prohibited.

 

Members of the Working Group

 

Chair: Stefan Eck – MEP (GUE/NGL, DE)

Eleonora Evi – MEP (EFD², IT)

Members: Petras Auštrevičius – MEP (ALDE, LT)

Georges Bach – MEP (EPP, LU)

Isabella De Monte – MEP (S&D, IT)

John Flack – MEP (ECR, UK)

Rikke Karlsson – MEP (ECR, DK)

Stelios Kouloglou – MEP (GUE/NGL, GR)

Zdzisław Krasnodębski – MEP (ECR, PL)

Florent Marcellesi – MEP (Greens/EFA, ES)

Marisa Matias – MEP (GUE/NGL, PT)

Tilly Metz – MEP (Greens/EFA, LU)

Marlene Mizzi – MEP (S&D, MT)

Maria Noichl – MEP (S&D, DE)

Sirpa Pietikäinen – MEP (EPP, FI)

Jiří Pospíšil – (EPP, CZ)

Michèle Rivasi – MEP (Greens/EFA, FR)

Keith Taylor – MEP (Greens/EFA, UK)

Thomas Waitz – MEP (Greens/EFA, AT)

Josef Weidenholzer – MEP (S&D, AT).

The Working Group will be coordinated by Olga Kikou from Compassion in World Farming.

 

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