The Commission has decided to respond positively to the European Citizens' Initiative (EQF) “End the Cage Age”, the sixth successful initiative supported by more than 1 million citizens across the EU. The Commission presents draft legislative proposals by 2023 to ban cages for certain farmed animals. The proposal will be part of the ongoing review of animal welfare legislation in the context of the “Farm to Dish” strategy.
This citizens' initiative reflects the call for a transition to more ethical and sustainable agricultural systems, including the revision of existing EU animal welfare rules. Responding to this request from society is a high priority for the Commission, in line with the commitments it has made under the Farm to Dish strategy and the European Green Agreement.
Ms. Stella Kyriakidou, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, stressed that “animals are sensitive beings and we have a moral, social responsibility to ensure that the living conditions of animals on the farm reflect this fact. “Today's response is a key step towards an ambitious review of animal welfare legislation in 2023, a priority we have set since the beginning of my term.”
While current animal protection legislation applies to all farmed animals, only laying hens, broilers, sows and calves are covered by the cage rules. In its response to the EQF, the Commission undertakes to submit, by the end of 2023, a legislative proposal for the phasing out and, finally, a ban on the use of cage systems for all the animals mentioned in the initiative.
In particular, the Commission proposal will concern:
– animals already covered by legislation: laying hens, sows and calves;
Other animals mentioned in the EQF: rabbits, hens, broilers, laying hens, quail, ducks and geese. For these animals, the Commission has already asked the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) to supplement the existing scientific data to determine the conditions required for the ban on cages.
“Our commitment is clear: the phasing out of cages for farmed animals will be part of our Farm-to-Plate strategy and will lead to more sustainable agriculture and food systems. “I am determined to ensure that the EU remains at the forefront of action for animal welfare on the world stage and that we meet the expectations of society,” said Stella Kyriakidou.
As part of the Farm-to-Plate strategy, the Commission is already committed to proposing a review of animal welfare legislation, including transport and breeding, which is currently undergoing a fitness check, which will be completed by the summer of 2022.
In parallel with the legislation and to facilitate a balanced and economically viable transition to cage farming, the Commission will seek specific support measures in key relevant policy areas, such as trade, research and innovation. In particular, the new Common Agricultural Policy will provide financial support and incentives – such as the new ecological program instrument – to help farmers upgrade to more animal-friendly facilities under the new standards. In addition, Member States can draw on funding from the Fair Transition Fund and the Recovery and Resilience Mechanism to support farmers adapting to cage systems.
The Commission's Vice-Chair for Values and Transparency, Viera Jurova, said: “As the successful outcome of this initiative shows, the contribution of citizens can make a significant difference, leading to concrete legislative proposals by the Commission. We have heard the concerns of millions of people about the living conditions of farmed animals and we will respond to them. My message to EU citizens is simple: the EQF is at your disposal, do not hesitate to use it. “
As the abolition of cage use will require changes to existing breeding systems, the Commission will consider the socio-economic and environmental impact of the measures to be taken and the benefits for animal welfare in an impact assessment to be completed before the end. In this context, a public consultation will be held by the beginning of 2022 at the latest. The Commission will evaluate the feasibility of the work on the proposed legislation that will enter into force in 2027.