The European Union is working on a plan to phase out the practice of raising farm animals in cages, a drastic change that is not expected to happen anytime soon, but would be a major victory for campaigners. animal rights.
“Animals are sentient beings and we have a moral and societal responsibility to ensure that conditions on the farm for animals reflect this,” Stella Kyriakides, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said on Wednesday.
The European Union has some of the strictest animal welfare standards in the world, including a ban on overcrowded battery cages, which are often used to house laying hens in the United States. In recent years, however, calls for a total cage ban have gained traction. This has alarmed some farm owners, who are expected to radically overhaul their operations and worry about the potential costs of the change.
Over the past year, a European citizens’ initiative petition calling for a ban on cage farming has received 1.4 million signatures from 18 countries in the bloc, enough for leaders to be legally obliged to take up the matter. The European Parliament approved a non-binding resolution supporting a ban last month, and the European Commission followed with its own approval on Wednesday.
The “End the Cage Age” petition had proposed a total ban on cages for animals such as chickens, rabbits, quails, ducks and geese. Campaigners also called for rules prohibiting the use of confined stalls, pens and crates for larger animals such as pigs and cows in areas where such structures are not already prohibited.
The scale of popular support the proposal garnered demonstrated “societal demand for more ethical and sustainable agriculture,” Janusz Wojciechowski, EU agriculture commissioner, said in a statement.
But industry groups have said the change could cost millions and the petition ignores the fact that farming practices are not the same across Europe.
“In my native Finland, we have temperatures down to 30, minus-30 degrees. So it is obvious to all of us that the animals must be in an enclosure to protect them from the elements”, Pekka Pesonen, general secretary of the industrial group Copa Cogeca, told Euronews.
Concretely, any ban will be far away. The European Commission plans to introduce legislation by 2023, after public consultation. The ban would then have to be approved by EU lawmakers and individual EU countries, a process that could take years. The European Commission ruled on Wednesday that any ban is unlikely to come into force until 2027.
In a document outlining its plans to draft new legislation, the committee noted that a large part of the food consumed in the European Union is imported and that the bloc “carries a social responsibility also with regard to the products that are consumed. ‘he imports”.
The commission “will intensify its bilateral and multilateral efforts to increase animal welfare levels in third countries” and will consider asking importers from outside the bloc to have equally strict welfare standards, the commission said. document.
Despite the long bureaucratic process ahead, members of environmentally conscious political parties and activists who had pushed for a ban expressed optimism this week and hailed the plan as a historic step.
“The Commission’s commitment to end the cruelty of cage farming represents a historic achievement and a key step in the fight for greater recognition of animal rights as well as a step towards the abolition of animal rights. the most aberrant intensive breeding, which causes the suffering of hundreds of millions of animals, “said Wednesday Eleanora Evi, Member of the European Parliament who had supported the initiative.
Compassion in World Farming, an advocacy group, said ending the use of cages was “an important step towards ending factory farming.”
Wider changes to European agricultural regulations could also be underway. Lawmakers last year set up a special parliamentary commission to investigate animal welfare conditions. The committee presented a draft report at the end of May recommending new animal welfare guidelines and potential penalties if farmers and businesses do not comply with these rules. The draft report will be put to the vote before the end of the year.