Still in cages? – We Must Build a Different Future for Animals

01 Jan 1970

Having worked for years to raise breeders’ awareness on animal welfare, Slow Food is supporting the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) launched by Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), demanding that the European Parliament stop the current animal breeding system spread throughout EU countries.

Jacopo Goracci, a livestock expert, breeder, and spokesman of the Maremma Cattle Presidium, presents an interesting reflection on animal welfare.

“If I could be a bird of the woods (…) I would not wish to become a bird in a cage” thought Renzo in “The Betrothed“, considering captivity to be the worst punishment for any creature that has experienced freedom. Manzoni expressed the idea in 1840: what has changed since then?

When did human beings accept such poor living conditions as ethically tolerable? How come in Italy 62% of laying hens, 94% of sows and 97% of rabbits still live in cages?

I am certain that in this case, as in many others, laws would help to solve what is both a technical and a moral issue: but can we honestly say that current legal provisions actually respect the emotions of the animals that they are designed to protect? I do not think so. The law treats everyone equally, but not all are equal. It is therefore up to us to understand – and guide legislators – whenever the law, instead of providing protection, becomes an impediment, whenever the law gets lost in the maze of fruitless and confused rules and requirements, whenever the law hinders the shift towards an ethical breeding system.

Today, a farming revolution is desperately needed, starting with a change in farmers and agricultural entrepreneurs, who must lead development and avoid falling into old patterns of industrial growth. Such change must be triggered and fostered by increased knowledge and the awareness of consumers of the power that they have to “direct” the market. They can choose the products that they purchase, promoting methods of production focused on meaningful ethics.

The market does not have ethics, but citizens can and must.

Unfortunately, we still live in the just society: we accept that animals eat low-quality feed just for the sake of saving money, we keep them in unhealthy places just to increase productivity, crammed in restricted spaces, because we are confident that they can grow in these conditions, we just transport live animals for very long distances and we are not  too concerned about the last stages of their life, as we just have to slaughter them.

My question is: what would actually be better for the animals? Is it ethically and socially fair to use animals’ ability to adapt and survive as justification for the inhumane breeding methods that we use?

The cages used for poultry, rabbits and hares, pigs, and veal calves show that inhumane behavior has become the rule, that the physical, physiological, and behavioral conditions animals can be disrupted in the name of profit. Although genetic selection has tried to create animals that can survive in cages, we are all acutely aware that even the best managed and organized cages ensure satisfactory animal welfare. An alternative does exist, as demonstrated by breeders who focus on the ethical management of their animals: I am not only referring to free-range farming on thousands of hectares, but careful and conscientious approaches to farming where free movement and interactions between animals are guaranteed. It is high time to change, to trigger a shift: we eat too much meat, and perhaps worse, most of it comes from unhappy animals: How can that be sustainable?

Sign the petition against cage farming



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