2 October 2020 – Over 300 million pigs, chickens, rabbits, ducks and quails suffer an agonising existence crammed into tiny cages across Europe. Now European citizens are demanding an end of the use of cages in animal farming. On World Farm Animal Day (2 October), global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS, along with 170 other NGOs, handed in 1,397,113 validated signatures on the “End the Cage Age” European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) to the EU Commission. FOUR PAWS has supported the initiative launched by Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) since 2018 as one of the driving forces, collecting a fifth of the signatures. An unprecedented milestone, the “End the Cage Age” petition has collected the third highest signature count in ECI history and is the first successful ECI ever on farm animal welfare. Whilst work on this vital campaign started before the UK embarked on leaving the EU, it is hoped that post-Brexit the UK Government will continue to uphold it’s commitment to high animal welfare standards and eliminate systems such as sow stalls, that enable this cruel practices to continue.
Between September 2018 and September 2019, environmental, consumer rights and animal protection organisations joined forces to rally citizens from every corner of the continent, collecting signatures in support for “End the Cage Age”. The aims of the activity is to end to the caging of farm animals in Europe and change the current cruel system. With 1.4 million validated signatures, the ECI easily exceeded the required threshold of one million.
“We are incredibly proud of this collaborative victory. 1.4 million Europeans have made the task for the EU Commission clear: It must come forward with substantive legislative proposals to phase out the use of cages in EU animal farming and end the suffering of hundreds of millions of livestock in Europe. We demand this milestone to bring about long-term change in our food and agriculture system. It is high time for the EU Commission to evolve past the cruelty of cage keeping,”
says Pierre Sultana, Director of the European Policy Office at FOUR PAWS in Brussels.
EU-wide regulations needed for the end of the cage age
The impact of “End the Cage Age” is already noticeable in some EU member states. Most recently, the Czech Republic called on the EU Commission during an Agriculture Council meeting in September to submit a proposal to ban the production of eggs from laying hens in cages in the EU by 2030, which is supported by Austria, Denmark, France, Greece, Sweden and Slovakia. Moreover, the Czech Parliament also voted for a ban of the cage keeping of laying hens from 2027 onwards. As 84 per cent of the laying hens in the country are kept in cages, the ban will reduce the suffering of 4.5 million animals. Still, half of the commercial egg-laying hens in the EU are cruelly kept in cages, with 90 per cent of the laying hens in Lithuania kept in cages, 86 per cent in Poland and 88 per cent in Spain. “Laying hens are only one example. Pigs, rabbits, ducks and quails also spend their entire lives locked up in cages in dire conditions. Between birth and slaughter, many of them never see daylight. Their small, dirty cages leave them hardly any room to move, nor to engage in any natural behaviour. A life in a cage is no life at all. Following the success of the ECI and forward-thinking steps in some countries, we prompt all EU member states to follow suit. Only an EU-wide cage ban can improve the lives of these animals in the long term. It is time to leave the “cage age” behind us once and for all,” says Sultana.