MEPs Strong Call to Support the 'End the Cage Age' ECI

3 Mar 2021
This morning, the Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals gathered to discuss the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) ‘End the Cage Age’, which was submitted to the European Commission in October 2020 and is awaiting its hearing in the European Parliament on 15th of April 2021.

MEPs expressed support for the initiative and for revising the  Directive 98/58/EC concerning the protection of animals kept for farming purposes in order to phase out the use of cages in EU agriculture.

In her opening remarks the Intergroup President, Anja Hazekamp MEP (GUE/NGL, NL), stressed the success of the ECI with its 1.4 million validated signatures.

She then gave the floor to Francisco Guerreiro MEP (Greens/EFA, PT) who promoted the proposal for an own-initiative report on fish welfare in the PECH Committee.

Eleonora Evi MEP (Greens/EFA, IT) informed about the state of play of the Cage-Free Farming Working Group which was launched during the last term to coordinate the parliamentary activities around the ECI. Every year, more than 300 million animals are farmed in cages, a cruel practice that cannot be allowed to continue.

Olga Kikou, Head of Compassion in World Farming EU and member of the ECI’s Citizen Committee presented the latest political developments and next steps of ‘End the Cage Age’. She elaborated on citizens’ call to revise EU legislation on farmed animals to reflect modern scientific knowledge and understanding of animal sentience. She noted that the EU has pioneered bans on certain cages in the past and that a few Member States and countries outside the EU already have put in place legislation banning at least some of the worst practices.

Regarding the EU institutions, Olga Kikou reported that the cages ban would be in line with the Commission’s Farm to Fork Strategy and the European Green Deal. Furthermore, there are encouraging signs from the Committee of the Regions, which published two Opinions in which they call for a phase out of cage farming.

Catherine Jadav, Research Manager at Compassion in World Farming International, spoke about the problems of animal farming and cages as well as about viable alternatives already on the market. She pointed out that the EU recognises animal sentience in its Treaty, yet no cage system can provide animals with an environment in which they can perform their most basic behaviour. She presented species-specific research detailing how cages inflict suffering and showed available alternatives that often come with additional advantages, such as reduced need for antibiotics. She concluded that it is very timely that Directive 98/58/EC is updated to the most recent scientific evidence. More information can be found in a recently published scientific review by CIWF.

The meeting continued with questions and a debate slot.

In this discussion, Olga Kikou pointed out that there needs to be a clear ban of all cage systems. No cage will ever be able to provide animals with a life worth living as was evident with the so-called enriched cages for laying hens. The same mistake should not be made again to believe that improved cage systems could be progressed.

When asked about the cheaper products coming in from non-EU countries, Olga Kikou stressed that there needs to be a paradigm change in the way we farm. Reineke Hameleers from the Eurogroup for Animals added that EU producers can be protected by making sure imported products adhere to EU standards.

Petras Auštrevičius MEP stressed that campaigning for cage-free farming should not be limited to the European Union. Olga Kikou described how organisations from diverse backgrounds are teaming up for joint work beyond the European Union. It is clear that people all over the world are concerned about animal welfare.

Tilly Metz MEP warned about a weak, so-called “animal welfare label” that could easily disguise how animals are really raised. EU farm subsidies should only be given for cage-free systems.

Manuela Ripa MEP criticised the animal welfare label promoted by Julia Klöckner, the German Federal Minister of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection and how it can disinform consumers. She pointed out that the means to improve the living conditions for animals would be there, but Governments need to better guide the investment. Eleonora Evi MEP added, that the EU should be brave and commit to reduction targets for animal products.

Anja Hazekamp concluded the meeting by noting that with 1.4 million citizens and over 170 organisations calling for a ban on cages, the EU Commission will find it difficult to ignore the issue. She also called on MEPs to keep fighting for a better future for animals – a future, where the cage will only be found in museums.

Find the presentations and video recording here. 

Keep updated on future activities and more developments here