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Fears EU has shelved promised ban on caged farming

News Section Icon Published 9/13/2023

Today, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen's European Union speech strongly indicated that the Commission is shelving its unprecedented commitment to ban caged farming, made in response to a referendum-like action by 1.4 million citizens. Compassion in World Farming described this as a scandalous show of disdain for civic engagement, at a time when people are already losing trust in the EU. The NGO and the “End the Cage Age” movement will be exploring all options available to ensure the EU delivers what is the clear will of the people.

On Monday this week, the Financial Times reported that the EU was considering dropping its plans for stricter animal welfare measures, including the ban on caged farming. In today’s speech on the priorities of the European Commission, President von der Leyen failed to mention their plans to publish the new laws. Following the demands of the Big Agri lobby, she announced plans for ‘more dialogue’ – despite endless consultations, meetings and scientific opinions over the past many years, and with tens of thousands of citizens providing input in the policy-making process. Commission officials have also devoted significant resources and public funding preparing the draft laws.

Two years ago, the European Commission committed to end the use of cages in animal farming, in response to the ’End the Cage Age’ European Citizens’ Initiative, which Compassion in World Farming initiated and coordinated, and which was signed by 1.4 million citizens. This was the first such commitment since the EU introduced this participatory democracy tool over ten years ago. The Commission had pinned down the revision of the EU’s animal welfare legislation for the third quarter of 2023.

In the EU, every year about 300 million farmed animals still spend all or part of their lives in cages, pens or stalls, causing great suffering. Laying hens and rabbits, for example, are confined to spaces about the size of an A4 sheet of paper. Adult female pigs have to spend nearly half of every year inside crates, in which they cannot even turn around.

Olga Kikou, Head of Compassion in World Farming EU and substitute representative of the ‘End the Cage Age’ European Citizens’ Initiative, said: “What happened today is scandalous. We fear the European Commission has gone back on its word to give animals a life worth living, bowing to the demands of the Big Agri lobby and killing the new animal welfare laws by delaying. They have betrayed the trust of its citizens and have turned EU democracy into an empty shell. Ahead of the EU elections, this will not go unnoticed in the polls.”

Olga added: “The ‘End the Cage Age’ European Citizens’ Initiative is the only Initiative to have received a firm commitment for action, even though this democratic tool has been in existence for over a decade. Failure to keep this commitment is a clear failure of democracy and a show of disdain for civic engagement. We are now therefore exploring all options available to us to ensure the EU delivers what is the clear will of the people. Please watch this space.”

In late June, an investigation by Politico and Lighthouse Reports revealed that the factory farming lobby in Brussels has a deep-rooted influence on the EU decision-making process. The lobby has also bullied campaigners and has resorted to fearmongering politicians with faulty economic analyses.

The ‘End the Cage Age’ European Citizens' Initiative has an overwhelming support by the European Parliament, with eight out of ten Members of the European Parliament voting in favour of an end to caged farming. The Initiative is endorsed by over 170 organisations from across Europe, the European Committee of the Regions, scientists, representatives of the business community, organisations campaigning for environmental protection, health and farming, and veterinary organisations.

For more information please email or call +44 (0)1483 521 615.

Notes to editors: 

For over 50 years, Compassion in World Farming has campaigned for farm animal welfare and sustainable food and farming. With over one million supporters, we have representatives across Europe, as well as in the U.S., China and South Africa. 

For years, we have called on the EU to revise its outdated legislation for the welfare of farmed animals. With regards to caged farming in particular, please read more about the End the Cage Age’ European Citizens’ Initiative, as well as our report and scientific briefing on the issue.


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