EU citizens call for an end to the use of cages for farm animals

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

A new European Citizen's Initiative aims at protecting farming animals rights and wants to ban cages. [EPA/DAI KUROKAWA]

Earlier in September, the European Commission registered a new European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) called END THE CAGE AGE, which aims to put an end to the most appalling symbol of industrial animal farming – the cage, writes Olga Kikou.

Dr. Olga Kikou is the substitute representative for the END THE CAGE AGE ECI and head of compassion in World Farming – EU.

Cages inflict unimaginable suffering to hundreds of millions of farm animals, making their lives miserable, cramping them together and denying them the space to move freely. These restrictions lead to severe health and welfare issues.

The EU treaties recognise animals as sentient beings, for example capable of suffering and joy, and mandate that the EU and the member states pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals when legislating in a number of policy areas.

While the EU has banned specific types of cages for some species, no progress has been made in the EU legislative front in recent years and inhumane caged farming practices remain.

Together with the other six members of the Citizens’ Committee of the END THE CAGE AGE ECI, we want to urge the European Commission to consider new legislation that will lead to the end of cages in EU farming.

We want this to apply to all hens, pullets, rabbits, pigs, sows, calves, quail, ducks and geese across Europe. We also want to bring to light the suffering endured by animals who spend most of their short lives in cages, inform the public and policy makers, and build a movement of citizens rejecting cruel farming practices of the past.

Ending the use of cages in farming is an important step towards dismantling factory farming – a system that has proven detrimental for the environment, the welfare of animals, people’s health and the livelihoods of small farmers.

The EU-wide launch of the END THE CAGE AGE ECI will take place in the European Parliament in Brussels on 25 September 2018 and will be accompanied by an exhibition. This will be followed by events in the member states, during the entire one-year signature collection period.

The ECI is a democratic tool intended to enhance citizen engagement and participation, allowing citizens to call for legal changes in fields where the European Commission has competency.

Seven citizens from different member states can launch an initiative on an issue that is important to them. If they gather more than a million validated signatures over the period of one year, the Commission must decide whether to take action or not.

Officially introduced with the Treaty of Lisbon, Regulation 211/2011 on the ECI came into effect in April 2012. There have been close to 50 registered ECIs since then, and four have been officially accepted as successful.

The Commission presented a proposal to revise the ECI regulation in September 2017. A legislative review process is currently underway and the new Regulation is expected to come into force by 1 January 2020.

We hope that this ECI will draw attention to the existing divide between citizens’ expectations about the treatment of animals and the existing policies that govern farming standards allowing for cruel practices from the past.

More than nine in ten EU citizens believe it is important to protect the welfare of farmed animals, as revealed in the latest Eurobarometer public opinion poll on animal welfare. It is time for the EU to turn the page by rejecting cruelty towards animals and aligning itself with 21st-century principles.

Together, we can end the cage age.

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