1 Million Activists Push European Commission to Ban Caged Animal Farming

Photograph of chickens roaming together in a green field outside.

The European Commission just announced that it will propose legislation for a caged animal farming ban.

The Commission has said the legislation will be presented in 2023, but that caged animal farming would not be fully phased out until 2027 (the final deadline suggested by the European Parliament last month).

Once outlined, parliament and all 27 of the EU’s individual governments must agree on the legislation, and each country will be responsible for enforcing the ban independently.

As per Reuters, EU Health Commissioner Stella Kryiakides said: “Animals are sentient beings and we have a moral, societal responsibility to ensure that on-farm conditions for animals reflect this.”

A non-binding resolution was first announced on June 10, 2021 after the European Parliament Committee voted overwhelmingly in favor of a caged animal farming ban—558 votes for, 85 abstaining, and just 37 against.

The committee called this vote in response to a petition titled “End the Cage Age,” led by Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) and signed by 1.4 million EU citizens and a total of 170 organizations, from all 27 member states.

As per the European Citizens Initiative, the European Commission has now officially responded to the European Parliament Committee’s calls to phase out the practice, along with the force-feeding of ducks and geese for foie gras.

“It feels like one of these moments in history when the tide is turning. The animal advocacy movement succeeded in rattling the cage and planting the seeds of a new era,” said Olga Kikou, head of CIWF’s EU office.


Why Ban Caged Farming?

Caged farming, a form of intensive animal agriculture or factory farming, involves the confinement of creatures in cages for the sake of increased profits and ease of management. Four Paws, one of the petition’s signatories, says that in Europe alone “hundreds of millions of animals” spend their lives in cages.

In an extract from the debate, German MEP and European People’s Party member Norbert Lins said: “It is a question of striking the right balance. So in 2027, we’re suggesting that’s a possible date that should be explored to end the cage age.” He added that those involved in the industry will need both incentives and compensation.

According to Kyriakides, the European Commission is also considering a request to apply the same welfare standards to imported animal products, which would encourage similar legislative updates outside of Europe for countries that wish to trade.

“Our rules need to change,” Kyriakides told gathered MEPs during the debate. “That is a very clear call from our citizens.” She added that the Commission will push through the ban “as soon as feasible,” after looks into the requests with “a science-based approach.”

Is The Industry Moving Away From Cages?

Attitudes to animal welfare are changing rapidly, and both consumers and companies are distancing themselves from caged animal farming (whether for eggs or for fur).

In the U.S., Colorado, Michigan, Oregon, Washington, Massachusetts, and California have all passed state-wide cage-free farming laws. While the EU itself has already banned barren cages (those without perches) in favor of enriched cages. However, enriched cages are typically still far too small for the animals to engage in normal behaviors such as dust bathing.

While caged hens experience a level of discomfort that the majority of free-range animals do not, there are also too many shared ethical issues to consider the latter cruelty-free. According to the Humane Society, these issues include both cruel practices and a short life; a perspective shared by many.

Fortunately, the vegan egg industry is growing fast, with plant-based alternatives to traditional eggs getting more realistic, widely available, and specific by the day. The same also applies to fur, with luxury department store Neiman Marcus the latest of many to completely ditch animal-based fur in favor of vegan alternatives.