European Parliament calls for the end of cage farming by 2027

Orylag rabbits, bred for their furs, in their cages in a French industrial farm in December 2017. – XAVIER LEOTY / AFP

It all started with a European citizens’ initiative. On Thursday, MEPs voted 558 votes (37 votes against, 85 abstentions) on a text asking the European Commission to make proposals to implement the gradual elimination of cage farming of animals by 2027 in the ‘EU.

“It is necessary to achieve changes or even a ban on cage breeding,” said German Christian Democrat MEP Norbert Lins, rapporteur for the text. He considered “that 2027 could represent an acceptable date for the complete disappearance of cage farming”.

1.4 million European citizens voted

This vote marks the start of a possible legislative process lasting several weeks or months which will give rise to negotiations between the various European institutions and the member states. A European citizens’ initiative calling for an end to cage farming had collected nearly 1.4 million signatures across the EU when it was registered in September 2018.

As soon as the milestone of one million signatures is reached, the Commission must decide on an action to be taken. Currently 78 initiatives are registered on various subjects and six have already succeeded. “This initiative is the first valid concerning animal welfare,” said the Latvian elected ecologist Tatjana Zdanoka. A lack of reaction from the European Commission “would undermine European participatory democracy”, she said.

A “species-by-species approach”

Present in the hemicycle, the European Commissioner for Health Stella Kyriakides assured that the European executive “is committed to the welfare of animals”. The Commission, she assured, “is looking” at requests both for the end of cage farming, but also for support for breeders who have to change their farms and for compliance with similar standards for imported products. “This is an ethical, social and economic question. We must listen to the voices of our fellow citizens and make this transition to a more sustainable approach as soon as possible ”, she said, without however going into the need for additional legislation in the EU.

According to the text of the MEPs, which calls for a “species-by-species approach”, rabbits are the most common animals raised in cages, 85% of which are rudimentary, preventing them from having a natural behavior. About half of EU laying hens are reared in converted cages, while the majority of sows are caged at some point in their life. Cage farming is already banned in organic farming across the EU.

No more foie gras?

The European Parliament’s final resolution includes an amendment also asking the Commission to make proposals “aimed at prohibiting the cruel and unnecessary force-feeding of ducks and geese for the production of foie gras”.

This amendment, proposed by the GUE (radical left) group and that of the Greens, was adopted by 319 votes, while 251 MEPs voted against and 108 abstained. “Putting an end to force-feeding is to condemn the French foie gras sector, a showcase sector for the traditions of our territories”, criticized the French EPP MEP (right) Anne Sander.

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