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Animal welfare activists are celebrating a ‘historic’ victory after the European Commission announced it would support an EU-wide ban on cage farming.
The Commission officially committed to introducing a legislative proposal outlawing cages for a number of farmed animals by 2023, after a campaign calling for a ban gained more than 1.4 million signatures.
Officials said the proposal would seek to gradually phase out cage farming ahead of a full ban being implemented in 2027.
EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides confirmed that the legislation would form part of a wider animal welfare review under the EU’s Farm to Fork food policy strategy, saying ‘animals are sentient beings and we have a moral, societal responsibility to ensure that on-farm conditions for animals reflect this.’
The move comes in response to a successful European Citizens Initiative titled ‘End the Cage Age,’ which launched in 2018 and called on the EU to ban the ‘nightmare’ of cage farming.
The Commission’s announcement was met with praise from animal welfare activists, with Compassion in World Farming EU head Olga Kikou calling it a ‘big step to leave a legacy for animals.’
‘It feels like one of these moments in history when the tide is turning,’ said Kikou, who also led the ECI campaign. ‘The animal advocacy movement succeeded in rattling the cage and planting the seeds of a new era.’
Pierre Sultana, director of the European policy office at Four Paws, said the announcement was a ‘monumental win for farm animals in the European Union,’ that offered Europe the chance to become a ‘pioneer’ in animal welfare, per Euractiv, while Portuguese Green MEP Francisco Guerreiro said in a tweet that the decision put the health commissioner Kyriakides ‘on the right side of history.’
Battery farming is already banned for some types of hens and cows, with this new legislation set to expand animal welfare laws to cover a number of other commonly farmed animals including rabbits, ducks and geese. According to Reuters, despite being a world leader when it comes to farming standards, more than half of laying hens in the EU are kept in cages, as well as around 90% of rabbits.
Farming representatives have warned that current systems will require overhauling to make a cage-farming ban viable, with farmer’s association member Morgan Ody saying that prices ‘often don’t cover costs’ of free-range farming techniques. Reuters reports that the Commission has confirmed farmers would be offered subsidies to help them upgrade their farming systems.
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