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The Intergoup on the Welfare and the Conservation of Animals met this morning, on World Animal Day, to discuss the recently launched European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) “End the Cage Age”. The ECI is a participatory democracy instrument that allows citizens to suggest concrete legal changes to the EU institutions by gathering 1 million signatures within one year. Once the signatures are collected, the Commission has to decide whether to take action or not. The Integroup Session was chaired by Stefan Eck MEP, who introduced the ECI and its goals. “End the Cage Age” was launched on the 25th of September with an exhibition on cage free farming in the European Parliament. This ECI aims to end the use of cages in EU farming by calling on the European Commission to consider new legislation in this area.

Eleonora Evi MEP stressed that it is an urgent matter and that the initiative is endorsed by over 130 associations and NGOs across Europe, demonstrating the wide support to end the use of cage in EU farming. She clearly expressed her will to see the end of the cage age  and a more humane treatment of animals. The timing is favourable: with the upcoming European elections next year, the new Commission will have to pay greater attention to animal welfare and answer the citizens’ demand.

Olga Kikou, from Compassion in World Farming, highlighted the welfare issues caused by the use of cages. In the EU, over 300 million animals are spending their lives in cages. The initiative concerns many species, including hens, broilers, pullets, rabbits, sows, quails, ducks, and geese. Progresses are made in some countries for specific species but cages are still widely used across all Europe in animal farming despite the fact that the EU citizens are in majority opposed to this practice. The large network of NGOs supporting the ECI will hold events and conferences in many Member States to promote the initiative. The one-year campaign will also rely on social media.

Stefan Eck MEP explained how the members of the Intergroup could support the initiative. He invited the MEPs to mobilise their social and political networks to disseminate the petition and support the initiative. He asked his fellow MEPs to push for the issue inside their own parties and groups. As the European elections are getting closer, a more consistent animal protection approach could be used as a topic for election hearing. According to Eurobarometers, more than 80% of EU citizens demand higher animal protection. MEPs can support their concerns by offering their help to this initiative. The “End the Cage Age” ECI is the opportunity to send a strong signal to the Commission on the need to end cage production.

The presentations were followed by a lively debate. Among other topics, the MEPs discussed the importance to have the support of consumers to promote change in the animal production. The need to reconsider the price of meat, making sure to ensure a fair livelihood to farmers respecting higher animal welfare standards, was also raised. In addition, the MEPs addressed the question of international trade and the need to have imports respecting the same animal welfare rule as the EU standards.

The next Intergroup Session, on the 25th of October, will focus on broiler welfare.

The recording of the Intergroup Session can be found here.

The petition for the ECI “End the Cage Age” can be signed here.

 

 

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