In their response to the 'End the Cage Age' European Citizens' Initiative (ECI), MEPs asked the EU Commission to come up with legislative proposals to ban caged farming in the EU, possibly already by 2027, following an appropriate transition period and after a solid scientific impact assessment has been carried out. The resolution to this end was adopted on Thursday with 558 votes in favour to 37 against, and 85 abstentions.
Alternatives to cage farming exist and are being successfully implemented in a number of member states, MEPs say. These alternative systems should be further improved and encouraged at member state level, but to ensure a level-playing field for farmers across the European Union, MEPs agreed EU legislation is needed.
Species-by-species approach and properly funded transition
The gradual end of the use of cages should be based on a species-by-species approach that would take into account the characteristics of different animals and ensure that they all have housing systems that suit their specific needs, MEPs say. Before any legislative changes are made, farmers and livestock breeders must be given a sufficiently long transition period and proper support. This could include adequate advisory and training services, incentives and financial programmes to avoid farmers losing their competitive edge and prevent the relocation of EU agricultural production to places where animal welfare standards are lower than in the EU.
MEPs also call for a more comprehensive food policy to support the shift towards a more sustainable food system, but also to prevent small and medium-sized farms from abandoning livestock production and stop its further concentration in the hands of a few large farms.
Same standards for all imported products
A fair trade policy that ensures a level playing field is a precondition for higher European standards, the Parliament says. The Commission and member states should therefore focus more on putting effective controls and customs checks in place to ensure that imported agri-food products meet EU animal welfare standards.
MEPs want all animal products imported into the EU to be produced in full compliance with relevant EU legislation, including the use of cage-free farming systems. They insist existing trade deals should be re-evaluated to ensure that the same animal welfare and product quality standards are met. They also call on the Commission to promote animal welfare internationally.
Ban on unnecessary force-feeding of ducks and geese
MEPs also call on the Commission to come up with a proposal to ban the cruel and unnecessary force-feeding of ducks and geese for the production of foie gras.
The 'End the Cage Age' European Citizens' Initiative was registered with the EU Commission on 5 September 2018. By the time it was submitted, the initiative had gathered support from almost 1.4 million signatories from across the EU, with the required threshold for signatures met in 18 member states. MEPs debated the citizens' initiative together with its organisers, Commissioners and representatives of other EU bodies during a public hearing on 15 April.