Brian Kelly

EU shelves promised ban on caged farming

Every year about 300 million farmed animals in the EU continue to spend all or part of their lives in cages, pens or stalls, a cause of great suffering.

In her latest State of the Union address, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has announced that the Commission is shelving the commitment it entered to ban caged farming, which was made in response to a referendum-like petition by 1.4 million citizens.

The Compassion in World Farming NGO has described the decision as a scandalous show of disdain for civic engagement, at a time when people are already losing trust in the EU.

Along with the “End the Cage Age” movement, the NGO has said it intends exploring all available options to hold the EU to its commitment to deliver what was clearly the stated will of the people.

On Monday this week, the Financial Times reported that the EU was considering dropping its plans for stricter animal welfare measures, including the ban on caged farming.

In her speech on the EC’s priorities for the coming year, President von der Leyen failed to mention the Commission’s plans to publish the new laws. Instead, on the heels of demands by the Big Agri lobby, she announced plans for ‘‘more dialogue’’. This, despite endless rounds of consultations, meetings and scientific opinions over the past many years, and input from tens of thousands of citizens in the policy-making process. Commission officials have also devoted significant resources and public funding preparing the draft laws.

It has been two years since the Commission committed to end the use of cages in animal farming, in response to the ‘’End the Cage Age’’ European Citizens’ Initiative, which was initiated by Compassion in World Farming, and was signed by 1.4 million EU citizens.

This was the first example of such a commitment since the EU introduced this participatory democracy tool more than ten years ago. The EC had scheduled the revision of the EU’s animal welfare legislation for the third quarter of 2023.

Every year about 300 million farmed animals in the EU continue to spend all or part of their lives in cages, pens or stalls, a cause of 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 too small for them to even turn around in.

Olga Kikou, Head of Compassion in World Farming EU and on behalf of the ‘’End the Cage Age’’ European Citizens’ Initiative, accused the European Commission of having “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.”

The EC, she continued, had “betrayed the trust of its citizens”, “turned EU democracy into an empty shell”. This, she warned, would “not go unnoticed in the polls” ahead of EU elections.

She noted how the European Citizens’ Initiative had been the only Initiative of its kind to have received a firm commitment for action, despite this democratic tool having 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.”

In late June, an investigation by Politico and Lighthouse Reports revealed that the factory farming lobby in Brussels has a deep-rooted influence on the EU decision-making process. The lobby has also bullied campaigners and has resorted to fear-mongering politicians with faulty economic analyses.

The ‘’End the Cage Age’’ European Citizens’ Initiative has overwhelming support within the European Parliament, where eight out of ten MEPs voted in favour of ending caged farming. The Initiative has been 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.

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