Today (13 September), Commission President Ursula von der Leyen's State of the European Union speech strongly indicated that the European Commission is shelving its unprecedented commitment to ban caged farming, in response to a referendum-like action by 1.4 million citizens.
We responded strongly to this, describing it as a scandalous show of disdain for civic engagement, at a time when people are already losing trust in the EU. We will now be exploring all options available to ensure the EU delivers what is the clear will of the people.
Failure to mention animal welfare legislation
In today’s speech on the priorities of the European Commission, President von der Leyen failed to mention their plans to publish new animal welfare laws. Bowing to the demands of the Big Agri lobby, she announced plans for ‘more dialogue’ This move follows endless consultations, meetings and scientific opinions over 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 we 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.
300 million farmed animals suffering in cages
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 our EU Office and 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.”
The ‘End the Cage Age’ European Citizens' Initiative has overwhelming support in 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.
Find out more about our campaign to End the Cage Age.