The European Commission announced it would propose legislation to end caged farming of animals after more than 1.4 million European citizens signed End the Cage Age petition calling for the ban.
The Commission would propose new legislation in 2023 to phase out and eventually ban caged farming for animals mentioned in the petition by 2027. The animals' list includes rabbits, young hens, quails, ducks and geese.
Some animals such as laying hens, sows and calves are already covered by specific EU rules on cage use. For example, laying hens have to be kept in "furnished" cages that provide more space. Although European Union animal welfare standards are among the world's highest, still some animals are kept in cages - 90% of the EU's rabbits and 50% of laying hens.
"It feels like one of these moments in history when the tide is turning. The animal advocacy movement succeeded in rattling the cage and planting the seeds of a new era," said Olga Kikou, head of campaign group Compassion in World Farming EU.
Vice-President for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová, said: “As the successful outcome of this Initiative shows, citizens' input can make a real difference, leading to concrete legislative proposals from the Commission. We have heard the concerns of millions of people over the living conditions of farm animals and we will respond to it. My message to EU citizens is simple: the ECI is there for you, don't hesitate to use it!”
EU countries are already showing support for the changes. Germany and Chechia said they would ban caged hens by 2025, while Austria and Luxembourg have banned them entirely.
According to the statement, farmers will receive EU subsidies and free training to help them upgrade to a new animal farming system.
The latest move comes after Brussels is preparing a broader revision and update of its laws on animal welfare as part of Farm to Fork Strategy. This includes animal transport and rearing, which is currently undergoing an official check, to be finalised by the summer of 2022.
"Animals are sentient beings and we have a moral, societal responsibility to ensure that on-farm conditions for animals reflect this. Today's response is a key step towards an ambitious revision of the animal welfare legislation in 2023, a priority since the beginning of my mandate. Our commitment is clear: the phasing out of cages for farm animals will be part of our actions under the Farm to Fork Strategy and lead to more sustainable farming and food systems. I am determined to ensure that the EU remains at the forefront of animal welfare on the global stage and that we deliver on societal expectations," EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides said in a statement.