EP held hearing on citizens’ initiative for banning caged farming

The EU should move to alternative systems, which are already in existence, ECI organisers urge

Photo: EP The public hearing on “End the Cage Age” ECI was jointly organised by the EP’s Agriculture and Petitions committees.

Over 300 million farmed animals suffer in cages across Europe and this is cruel and unnecessary, say the organisers of citizens’ initiative (ECI), calling for banning caged farming in the EU. The initiative gathered about 1.4 million signatures from 18 EU countries. On Thursday, MEPs debated this ECI, together with its organisers, EU Commissioners and people from other EU bodies.

The public hearing on “End the Cage Age” ECI was jointly organised by the Parliament’s Agriculture and Petitions committees.

EC Vice-President Věra Jourová underlined that the Commission attaches the highest importance to ideas submitted via the European citizens’ initiative instrument and takes all successful initiatives very seriously. She stressed that citizens’ initiatives can and do generate long-term effects on EU policies.

Saying that he welcomes and supports this initiative, Agriculture Committee Chair Norbert Lins noted that animal welfare can be improved in the EU. But he specified that the issue of housing system must be first evaluated scientifically, species by species, keeping in mind the sanitary aspect of each system.

Lins also underlined that it is of utmost importance before planning any radical shift to fully cage-free housing, there is a need to analyse the cost of such a change and “think about providing sufficient financial support, compensation or other incentives to the farmers.

Petitions Committee Chair Dolors Montserrat pointed out that this is the sixth ECI to succeed among 76 registered initiatives in the last eight years. She also accented that this ECI has been submitted at a time where intensive animal husbandry is seeing greater public scrutiny and it demands that the EU make more policy changes.

ECI organisers Olga Kikou and Leopoldine Charbonneaux presented the initiative’s objectives, specifically to end the use of cages for a number of species, including laying hens, rabbits, pullets, quail, ducks and geese, sows in sow stalls and farrowing crates and individual calf pens.

Instead of using cages, we call on the EU to move to alternative systems, which are already in existence, such as barns, organic systems, free range or free farrowing, said Olga Kikou.

She asserted that farmers need to be provided with financial support to transition to cage-free farming and that imported products from non-EU countries must also meet EU animal welfare standards.

Animal welfare concerns lie at the heart of the EU’s Green Deal and Farm to Fork Strategy, emphasised Health and Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides.  We are very much aware that we need to do more, she said, pointing to the fitness check being carried out on existing EU animal welfare legislation. She announced as well that the Commission will use the results of this check to propose new legislation by 2023.

Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski outlined that the European Commission truly wants to improve animal welfare and stressed that the initiative has his full support. He called for more EU farm policy money to be used to improve animal welfare and insisted that “our trade partners accept the same or equivalent standards”.

MEPs highlighted the importance of listening and acting on citizens’ concerns on animal welfare. However, any potential phase-out of caged farming requires proper financial support, incentives and an adequate transition period, they insisted.

Lawmakers called for strict and efficient measures to avoid imports of cheaper products with lower animal welfare standards from non-EU countries. They also demanded for a proper impact assessment and insisted on EU legislative action.

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