Written by Dr. Martina Stephany, Director of Farm Animals and Nutrition Department at FOUR PAWS
Together with over 140 animal-welfare and environmental organisations, FOUR PAWS is calling for people to get behind the European Citizens’ Initiative “End the Cage Age.” It’s time to end cage farming in Europe. Citizens from all European Union countries (except the United Kingdom) have until September 2019 to call on the European Commission to take action. The numbers are looking good, but the more supporters the better!
This new initiative is fighting for an EU-wide ban on farrowing crates for mother sows, single-calf hutches and cages for egg-laying hens, farmed rabbits and other animals. The campaign’s goal to achieve at least a million signatures has been met, which means it has surpassed the minimum required for the promoters to bring this official EU Citizens’ Initiative to the European Commission and present their views on the problems of livestock farming.
Many EU citizens are not fully aware of the conditions in factory farming today, partly because some of the problem products have already disappeared from supermarket shelves in many countries. However, the reality is that even following EU standards, pigs farmed for meat live in very tight spaces, with mother sows suffering especially badly during pregnancy and after giving birth. They spend about half of their lives in metal cages not much larger than their body, which the industry calls “farrowing crates” And when it comes to cows, it is legal to keep calves up to the age of eight weeks in individual hutches that are barely bigger than the calf itself.
Another key difficulty is the variety of standards in different EU countries. Many of the successes in recent years and decades took place in individual countries, but with little or no impact elsewhere in the EU. One example is farming rabbits in cages. This practice has been banned in Austria since 2007, and some firms in Germany, such as supermarket chain REWE, have also taken action and stopped selling meat from caged rabbits. However, at the EU level, there are still millions of rabbits being farmed in cages. Egg-laying hens in the EU are another problem, of which around 53% live in cages. The lax, toothless implementation of the ban on battery hens did not bring about the turnaround that had been hoped for, as the new “enriched cages” actually resulted in very little improvement for egg-laying hens. This affects more than 200 million birds.
The “End the Cage Age” campaign has already done extraordinarily well and has surpassed its original goal of one million signatures. It’s been particularly successful in the Benelux countries and the Scandinavian countries in the EU. And in Germany and Austria too, “End the Cage Age” has received support from many celebrities, journalists and politicians. FOUR PAWS and other participating organisations are also drawing media attention to the campaign by means of focus weeks. It is vital that we encourage as many people as possible throughout Europe to follow and join the campaign.
How exactly this will happen will vary from country to country. But it is important to understand that this is no ordinary petition: In fact, it works somewhat like a referendum, and every signature must be verifiably legitimate. So you have to register in your country, giving the requested ID details (which will be deleted after a 3-month verification phase). Since over one million citizens are verified to have asked for change, the EU Commission will be obliged to address the issue and respond.
You have until the beginning of September – please support this important campaign!
Featured image: layer hens in a cage. This image © VIER PFOTEN International.