Campaigners launch ground-breaking legal action against European Commission for failing to deliver promised caged farming ban

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ommittee at the End The Cage Age European Citizens_ Initiative launch in the EU Parliament_ Sept 2018 _From left to right___Malgorzata SZADKOWSKA__Romana SONKOVA__Geert LAUGS__Léopoldine CHARBONNEAUX __Olga KIKOU

The Citizens’ Committee* of the successful End the Cage Age European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) has today launched legal action against the European Commission over its failure to deliver its commitment to ban caged farming.

Papers have been filed at the Court of Justice in Luxembourg outlining the Committee’s case demonstrating that the Commission has failed to act on its promise to introduce legislation to ban cages in response to a successful ECI – the first to secure a proper commitment. It further explains that ECIs were introduced with the specific intention of giving EU citizens more influence over EU decision making and that to renege on its historic promise to ban cages defeats the very purpose of this new ‘democratic’ tool.

In 2021, the Commission made a clear commitment to introduce legislative proposals for an EU ban on caged farming before the end of 2023, following the successful ECI signed by 1.4 million people and supported by a coalition of 170 NGOs, led by Compassion in World Farming.

This End the Cage Age legal action, funded by Compassion in World Farming, is the first to hold the Commission to account over its failure to act on an ECI. If successful, the Commission would be compelled by the Court to publish its proposals within a clear and reasonable timescale and to grant access to its file on the End the Cage Age ECI.

Olga Kikou, of the Citizens’ Committee of the End the Cage Age ECI, said: “The European Commission promised EU citizens it would deliver a ban on cages. Not only has it failed the people, it has clearly failed the 300 million animals still suffering every day in cages. There is no justification for any further delay.

“We have launched this End the Cage Age legal action against the Commission on behalf of the voiceless animals and the millions of EU citizens who supported this legislation, believing the ECI to be a genuine democratic tool that would give them more influence over EU decision making. We will not rest until every cage is an empty cage.”

More than 300 million pigs, hens, rabbits, ducks, quail and geese are suffering in cages across the EU – all subjected to cruelty and misery. Sows are forced to nurse their piglets in crates so small they can’t even turn around, rabbits and quail endure their whole lives in barren cages, and ducks and geese are caged for force feeding to produce foie gras.

In October last year, the Commission’s own Eurobarometer survey revealed that an overwhelming 9 out of ten (89%) EU citizens – around 400 million people* – believe animals should not be farmed in individual cages. The Commission’s scientific advisers, the European Food Safety Authority, have also backed the phasing out of cages on welfare grounds for pigs, dairy calves, laying hens, ducks, quail and rabbits. 

The Commission was at the point of publishing its legislative proposals for the ban in autumn last year when it appears President von der Leyen caved in to pressure from the agriculture lobby to put the ban on hold. Her State of the European Union speech even echoed the wording of a letter sent to her at that time from farming federation Copa Cogeca.

This is despite all the appropriate preparation, assessments and consultations already having been carried out by Commission officials and the proposals making strong provision for financial support to help farmers transition to cage-free systems during a phase out. This measure is backed by the animal welfare movement who believe public subsidies should be redirected to reward farmers for transitioning to high welfare and nature-positive systems that benefit society.

Supporters are being urged to show their support by sharing news of the legal action on social media and tagging European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen).