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Committee weighs up legal options on EU cages ban

News Section Icon Published 23/10/2023

A huge majority of Europeans (89%) supports a ban on individual cages for farmed animals, a new poll has revealed.

Eurobarometer, the official European Commission poll, also showed that 84% of Europeans surveyed want the welfare of farmed animals to be better protected in their country.

Despite this overwhelming support, the Commission has failed to publish its draft proposal for a ban as promised. In response, the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) ‘End the Cage Age’ Committee, supported by Compassion in World Farming, has said it will now look at taking first steps towards a legal action.

EU fails to deliver proposal to ban cages

Back in 2018, seven citizens from across Europe (France, Greece, Germany, Italy, Poland, the Netherlands and Czechia) initiated the ‘End the Cage Age’ European Citizens’ Initiative – a democratic tool aimed at increasing citizen engagement in EU affairs that matter to them.

The Initiative was signed by 1.4 million citizens and secured a unique commitment by the European Commission to end the use of caged systems for all farmed animals by 2027 – a move which may become a litmus test for the credibility of EU democracy. This followed a campaign by 170 NGOs that was coordinated by Compassion.

The call to end cages was also supported by scientists (through a series of EFSA opinions), and by a number of leading food companies - 10 of which co-signed a public letter of support through Compassion’s Food Business engagement work.

The proposals to end caged farming, among others, were scheduled to be delivered in September as part of a landmark legislative package. However, following many missed opportunities over recent weeks, the Commission again failed to deliver on these promised proposals when it announced its planned work programme last week.

The Commission has only confirmed delivery of one of the proposals on the protection of animals during transport, but has failed on the other three, namely the protection of animals kept for farming (which addresses the use of cages), and at slaughter, as well as the labelling of animal products.

EU citizens call for better welfare

The Eurobarometer poll, which is based on 26,376 interviews in all EU countries conducted between 2 and 26 March 2023, also showed that:

  • 94% of Europeans believe that animals need an adapted environment
  • 89% of Europeans think the EU needs to end mutilations
  • More than half of Europeans surveyed [60%] were also willing to be pay more for welfare-friendly products. 

Importance of voluntary standards

Many companies across the globe have made voluntary commitments to improve farm animal welfare within their supply chains and are reporting year on year progress.

According to ChickenWatch, over 600 companies globally have signed up to the Better Chicken Commitment to improve broiler welfare, and there have been over 2,500 cage free commitments for laying hens.

Our 2022 EggTrack, which measures company progress towards their cage-free egg commitments, shows that companies are reporting a 79.1% transition to cage-free systems.

By failing to enact the promised animal welfare legislative reform, including the ban on cages, the European Commission is not only failing its citizens, but also those companies that are transforming their supply chains and taking responsibility to secure better lives for farm animals.

Compassion will continue to push for these legislative changes so that we can raise the baseline and create a level playing field for all, whilst continuing to support and showcase corporate leaders that are listening to their customers and putting animals first.

Dr Tracey Jones, Director of Global Food Business said: “We welcome the publication of this latest official EU poll on animal welfare as it clearly shows that Europeans care deeply about animals and nine out of ten support a ban on cages. 

"Hundreds of food companies across the globe have already listened to their customers and are supporting a cage free future and we urge policy makers to underpin this industry progress by securing the promised animal welfare legislation.

“Animals are sentient beings, and we all have a responsibility to ensure that we create future fit food systems that allow them to experience the joy of life and not just an absence of suffering.”


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