- Manuel Bompard – MEP (GUE/NGL, FR)
- Klaus Buchner – MEP (Greens/EFA, DE)
- Martin Buschmann – MEP (GUE/NGL, DE)
- Fabio Massimo Castaldo – MEP (NI, IT)
- Francisco Guerreiro – MEP (Greens/EFA, PT)
- Martin Hojsik – MEP (Renew Europe, SK)
- Stelios Kouloglou – MEP (GUE/NGL, GR)
- Marisa Matias – MEP (GUE/NGL, PT)
- Tilly Metz – MEP (Greens/EFA, LU)
- Maria Noichl – MEP (S&D, DE)
- Sirpa Pietikäinen – MEP (EPP, FI)
- Jiří Pospíšil – MEP (EPP, CZ)
- Michèle Rivasi – MEP (Greens/EFA, FR)
- Catherine Rowett – MEP (Greens/EFA, UK)
- Sylvia Spurek – MEP (S&D, PL)
- Marie Toussaint – MEP (Greens/EFA, FR)
- Mario Furore – MEP (NI, IT)
- Jytte Guteland – MEP (S&D, SE)
The Working Group is coordinated by Olga Kikou from Compassion in World 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. Recently, Massachusetts, California, Washington and Oregon banned cages for egg-laying hens and the sale of products that do not meet the States’ new welfare requirements (in effect 2022, 2022, 2023 and 2024 respectively).
The lack of EU leadership on the issue has also pushed some governments of EU Member States to introduce national legislation to ban certain forms of caged farming:
- In Austria, ‘enriched’ cages for hens will be illegal in 2020 and cages for meat rabbits have been banned.
- In Belgium, rabbits raised for meat and breeding females will no longer be kept in cages by 2025.
- In Denmark, sow stalls may only be used for 3 days after insemination in new pig housing and this will apply to all systems by 2035; Denmark also has a target to keep 10% of its breeding herd out of farrowing crates by next year (2020).
- In Germany, enriched cages for hens will be illegal from 2025 and barren cages for rabbits will be illegal from 2024.
- Luxembourg has banned all ‘enriched’ cages for hens.
- The Netherlands has banned barren cages for rabbits and only permits sow stalls for the first four days after insemination.
- Sweden has banned all cages for sows – both sow stalls and farrowing crates.
- The United Kingdom has banned sow stalls.
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, civil society organisations 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.
To address these concerns, the Intergroup decided in October 2017 to set up an ad-hoc working group, which was headed by Stefan Eck MEP (GUE/NGL, DE) and Eleonora Evi MEP (EFD², IT). The working Group included representatives from almost all other political groups from the very start.
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 is to support and promote the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI): End the Cage Age. The ECI aims to see citizens throughout the whole EU taking a stand against cruel caged systems and to carry their voices inside the EU institutions
Record-breaking 'End the Cage Age' ECI
The largest European petition ever for farm animal welfare ended collecting signatures in mid-September 2019, breaking the record for balanced representation of voices across the EU. The “End the Cage Age” ECI has, subject to validation, surpassed the minimum threshold required by EU law in 21 EU Member States – a first in the history of ECIs! This direct democracy tool has also collected over 1.6 million signatures! The ECI was coordinated by the international NGO Compassion in World Farming and is supported by a network of over 170 NGOs and federations across Europe, aiming to end the use of cages in EU farming.
The EU countries where signature collection has, subject to validation, surpassed the threshold are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
The ECI was launched on the 25th of September 2018 with a conference and a week-long exhibition 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 13 European countries spoke at the launch.
Related events were held in many Member States with the support of MEPs and national NGOs – including an event with Pamela Anderson and MEP Yannick Jadot (see photo below). MEPs also held online actions, to help the ECI collect signatures.
“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 has built a movement of citizens calling for an end to the use of cages in farming and aims to 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.
MEPs from the Intergroup took part in the Easter action to support the End the Cage Age ECI. Throughout the Easter holiday season, images of bunny rabbits joyfully hopping around as well as baby chicks on green grass could be seen everywhere. However, nothing could be further from the truth as hundreds of millions of rabbits and hens across Europe lead miserable lives confined in cages. That is why, ahead of Easter, MEPs from various political groups and countries showed their support for the “End the Cage Age” ECI. They were photographed and recorded short videos, explaining that the Easter holiday presents a disconnect between our perceptions and the reality for farm animals.
On 8 October 2019, eleven MEPs, other citizens and representatives from the network of over 170 NGOs challenged the European Commission, from the shadow of its headquarters, to respond to the biggest ever concerted effort to improve the welfare of farmed animals across Europe.
This rally celebrated the record-breaking “End the Cage Age” ECI, which has, subject to validation, surpassed the minimum threshold required by EU law in 21 EU Member States – a first in the history of ECIs! It has also collected over 1.6 million signatures!
The organisers brought along an 18-meter circular banner placed in the middle of the Schuman roundabout and a 10-meter sculpture of a pig jumping to freedom.
Fabio M. Castaldo