UK falls behind as EU enlists agricultural cage ban

Animal Health

A European Citizens Initiative is where EU members submit a suggestion, and if the petition receives over one million signings from EU citizens, then the Commission must react to it. There was an evident passion in the public opinion on the 'End the Cage Age' for farm animal welfare, which is only the sixth ECI to reach this requirement.

The petition received support from 1.4 million people, over 50,000 of which were UK based. The movement aimed to convince the Commission to put legislation in place to ban cages being used in farming, with particular emphasis on how "cruel and unnecessary" the use of cages are and how they cause "suffering on enormous numbers of farm animals every year". Studies for the petition have found that over 16 million UK farm animals are reared in cages, and less than two-thirds of farm animals that can be caged are currently cage-free.

“ cages cause suffering on enormous numbers of farm animals every year“

The Commission reacted to the initiative by making plans to slowly reduce cages for agricultural use, using finance from the Common Agricultural Policy. This means no longer caging poultry, including laying hens, layer breeders, quail, ducks, geese, pullets and broiler breeders, and mammals including rabbits and calves. Not only does it propose to do this by 2023, but it also intends to maintain the requirements in the Free Trade Agreements for all imported produce.

The RSPCA has put pressure on the UK and Welsh governments to mirror Europe's actions and terminate the use of cages for livestock in the UK. The charity has already hailed England's promise last year to finance farm support programmes that will include removing cages. While Wales is not as far along, the country is currently considering their farm support policy with the hopes to make similar advancements.

Chris Sherwood, Chief executive, stated: "This is a landmark day for European animal welfare - with the Commission supportive of this ECI, which paves the way for ending the use of cages in farm systems across the European Union. We must now see the UK and Welsh governments act too to ensure we do not fall behind. Sadly, we know laying hens, game birds, and rabbits are among the millions of animals still cramped in farm cages or so-called enriched cages. While Brexit has created opportunities for animal welfare, it has also posed challenges - and standards in England and Wales cannot fall behind the EU after this ground-breaking announcement from the Commission, which is simply incredible news for all farm animals currently reared in cages across the bloc."

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