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Europe is moving towards cage-free farming but ban is needed to end suffering

News Section Icon Published 3/8/2023

A new league table released today (8 March) shows that while significant strides have been made in moving towards cage-free farming, an EU-wide ban is needed to End the Cage Age in Europe.

The league table, produced by Compassion in World Farming, rates all 27 EU Member States based on the percentage of caged farm animals in each country. It shows that while several countries have made progress, no country is 100% cage-free, and hundreds of millions of sows, calves, quails, rabbits, hens, ducks and geese are still being unnecessarily confined for their entire lives or part of it, often in horrific conditions.

Malta ranks bottom of the table with a heart breaking 99% of farmed animals caged. Spain, Portugal, and France have 87%, 81%, and 66% of animals caged, respectively. Germany has 13% of animals caged. Even in countries with the least caged animals – such as Austria (3%) and Luxembourg (2%) – the number of animals still imprisoned is estimated to be hundreds of thousands.

In 2021, the EU Commission announced that it will put forward a legislative proposal by the end of 2023 to phase out the use of cages for farmed animals. This provides an historic opportunity for the EU to start ending factory farming and bringing our inadequate animal welfare laws into line with scientific evidence and citizens’ expectations.

The campaign to secure stronger EU animal welfare laws is backed by acclaimed actor, Alan Cumming, who reveals the horrors faced by farmed animals throughout Europe in a new video launched today. The heartfelt video shows him make a direct appeal to EU citizens, asking them to write to their national agriculture ministers urging them to become ‘superheroes’ by agreeing to the planned cages ban and supporting stronger welfare laws for animals. Without the ministers' support, the European Commission's ambition to improve animal welfare standards will fall through.

The X2: X-Men United, Goldeneye and Spy Kids actor says: “Right now, the welfare of billions of animals is at stake. The EU has the chance to make history by ending factory farming. But we need your help. We must make sure they don’t miss this vital opportunity to give animals the legal protection they so desperately need. Please write to your agriculture minister today, urging them to become a superhero by giving animals lives worth living.”

Across the EU, around 300 million farmed animals are kept in cages, in some cases from birth until they are slaughtered, often in barren and cramped conditions with little space to move or express their natural behaviours. Many suffer unnecessary mutilations, including hens which have their beaks removed in painful procedures.

Several European countries have started to move away from these cruel systems and have made significant improvements to the number of animals living cage-free. This follows the NGO’s End the Cage Age campaign, backed by 1.4 million EU citizens, and a coalition of 170 environmental, consumer rights and animal protection groups across Europe.

But more needs to be done by governments across Europe, and more quickly. Legislation is needed to ban cages in farming; to stop live exports and prevent animals, like sheep and cattle, suffering cramped and stressful journeys to countries hundreds or thousands of miles away, only to be slaughtered at the other end. And over a billion fish suffer silently in underwater factory farms in the EU every year and urgently need legislation to protect their welfare.

Olga Kikou, Head of Compassion in World Farming EU, said: “It’s appalling that so many countries in the EU are failing their animals, people, and environment by continuing to farm animals in cruel cages.

“The EU Commission’s review of animal welfare laws is a once in a lifetime opportunity to give millions of farmed animals lives worth living, as well as to improve our health, climate, and environment. It’s time for our laws to reflect what the scientific evidence shows, what EU citizens want, and what animals deserve – compassionate farming that works in harmony with nature rather than against it.

“Agriculture ministers in EU countries have a crucial role to play in the EU decision-making process and, so far, they have been blocking progress. That’s why we urgently need people across Europe to write to their ministers asking them to become a ‘superhero’ for animals by supporting the European Commission’s plan for a cages ban and protecting farmed animals from many other types of unnecessary and shocking cruelty.”

Along with EU citizens, the scientific community has also voiced its support for such measures. Last month, the EU’s scientific body, the European Food Standard’s Authority (EFSA), confirmed that welfare conditions for egg-laying hens and chickens grown for meat must be urgently improved. This followed the organisation’s calls last year for an end to keeping female pigs (sows) in stalls and small crates and its release of reports outlining the various ways that current EU law allows for animal suffering during transportation.

To find out more about the campaign visit the End The Cage Age website.

For media enquiries please email or call +44 (0)1483 521 615.

Notes to Editors

1. Compassion in World Farming was founded in 1967 by a British dairy farmer who became horrified at the development of intensive factory farming. Today Compassion is the leading farm animal welfare organisation dedicated to ending factory farming and achieving humane and sustainable food. With headquarters in the UK, we have offices across Europe, in the US, China and South Africa.

2. Review the league tables on caged animals in Europe.


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