Today (15th April 2021), the European Parliament held a public hearing on the End the Cage Age European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), which was warmly welcomed by the three European Commissioners present during the debate. A large number of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) made interventions and, overall, the End the Cage Age ECI received overwhelming support.
“We are taking steps to tangible action because, as I have repeatedly stated, animal welfare and animal health are very high on our agenda," said Stella Kyriakides, Health and Food Safety Commissioner. “We are very much aware that we need to do more, and we need to strive for better. And we are absolutely determined to do so. The European Citizens’ Initiative is a timely reminder of that. It is a heartful example also at democracy at its best.”
A milestone for millions
Today’s public hearing was a milestone for the ECI in the run-up to the official response from the European Commission, which is expected in the next few months.
“The EU claims to be a leader in animal welfare, yet every year it condemns more than 300 million farmed animals to lives of misery in cramped cages. This medieval practice is cruel and completely unnecessary since viable cage-free systems not only exist but are also in use in some parts of the EU,” said Olga Kikou, our Head of EU. "A number of pioneering member states and businesses have led the way in ditching cages. Now it is time for the rest of the EU to catch up.”
Norbert Lins, Chair of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (Group of the European People's Party, Germany) concluded at the hearing that "most speakers welcomed this initiative" and noted that "the ball is now in the Commission's court."
Before the hearing, on 13th April, EU citizens and NGOs rallied behind the End the Cage Age ECI Initiative on Twitter, encouraging MEPs to support the ECI during the public hearing. A total of 35,000 tweets were sent, reaching a potential number of more than 3.7 million views, making public support for the ECI undeniable.
Among those who spoke in favour of the ECI during the hearing were Bo Algers, Professor Emeritus at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Ruud Zanders, co-founder of the Dutch high animal-welfare poultry farm Kipster.
Algers said: “EU law for farmed animals is incredibly outdated. Since 1998, when the EU adopted its Directive on the protection of farmed animals, the output from the animal welfare science has on average been tenfold. Today, we have a much better understanding of how physical, physiological and psychological factors relate to animal welfare. A wide range of species-specific ethological needs are not, or cannot be, provided in a cage, whether enriched or not. It is now crystal clear that cages, due to their inherent physical and behavioural restriction, cannot provide good welfare, no matter how good the management.”
Members of the European Parliament also expressed their support.
MEP Eleonora Evi, Vice-President of the Animal Welfare Intergroup and co-chair of its cage-free working group, said: "Today’s public hearing marked another fundamental step towards the objective of a cage-free Europe. Together with many like-minded MEPs, we gave a voice to the over 300 million animals that every year, in the EU alone, spend all, or a significant part, of their lives imprisoned in cages. The enormous support received by this European Citizens’ Initiative throughout Europe cannot be ignored by the European Commission, which needs to come forward with a legislative proposal to end the unnecessary cruelty of caged farming as soon as possible, bringing EU farming practices closer to our citizens’ expectations and more aligned with nature and the protection of public health.”
United for farm animals
The End the Cage Age ECI, supported by over 170 NGOs, launched on 11th September 2018 and closed exactly a year later. With 1.4 million verified signatures from citizens across the EU, it became the first successful ECI in farmed animal welfare.
The success of the ECI is down to the millions of citizens who stood up for farmed animals and demanded change. No matter what, we continue to stand united for farmed animals by campaigning for an end to cages across the EU.
The hearing’s programme can be found here.
The hearing’s recording can be accessed here.