On October 8th, Slow Food Europe along with other non-governmental organizations, decision-makers, and citizens of the European Union, gathered in Brussels to celebrate the end of a historic European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) “End the Cage Age.” During this12-month period, 170 organizations collected 1,617,405 signatures, sending a clear statement: the European Commission would have to take into account a strongly supported demand to eliminate cages for farmed animals across the EU.
The final ECI “End the Cage Age” event took place at the heart of the EU area in Brussels, between the EU Council and EU Commission buildings. Ode to the Pig, an eye-catching 10-meter sculpture of a pig jumping to freedom was on display, while videos and speeches were shown on two screens within the eyeline of the EU Commission and EU Council buildings. Additionally, an 18-meter circular banner with the message “For animals, end caged farming”, was placed in the middle of Schuman roundabout, visible to pedestrians and from all surrounding buildings.
“A year ago, we were contemplating taking on a challenge: an ECI to end cages for farm animals. This is no small order, considering the fact that most ECIs in the past have failed. But we came together and ushered a continent to stand up against cruelty and suffering,” said Philip Lymbery, CEO at Compassion in World Farming. “The hard work doesn’t stop here – now we must make this ECI count at the heart of Brussels, in legislation.”
This year, “End the Cage Age” gained momentum and broad support not only from citizens but also well-known celebrities, and as well as EU decision-makers.
“The EU claims to have the highest animal welfare standards in the world, but still locks up animals in cages. Hundreds of millions of farm animals in the EU suffer daily, unable to express their natural behavior,” said Anja Hazekamp, MEP, President of the Animal Welfare Intergroup and Co-Chair of the Cage-Free Working Group. “It’s high time the EU entered the 21st century. The torture of these innocent, sentient beings must end, once and for all.”
One of the most emotive aspects of the day was the moment Angelina Berlingò, an Italian citizen, delivered her speech representing more than 1.6 million EU citizens. She campaigned for the ECI and single-handedly collected more than 2,000 digital and paper signatures.
“It’s been a great personal journey to be part of the campaign’s general success. The result of this petition brings hope for a better world for both human and non-human animals. I’m here today to shout once again: End the Cage Age!”
After receiving the final, verified number of signatures, the EU Commission will examine the initiative and within three months will adopt a formal response spelling out what action it will propose in response to the citizens’ initiative if any, and the reasons for doing or not doing so.
“As Slow Food, we have been working for years to raise farmers’ awareness about animal welfare issues. We are proud and excited to be part of this historic ECI, which represented an enormous effort to finally end the use of cages in animal farming, and thus increase animal welfare standards across the EU. Now we put trust in the new Commission and Parliament to take seriously into consideration the initiative, which was so strongly supported by more than 1.6 million Europeans,” says Rachele Lodi, Slow Food’s International Councillor for Europe.
ECI’s “End the Cage Age” has been a collaborative effort between 170 NGOs from across Europe. This is the first time in history that this number of European organizations has come together for farm animals. During the year of action, Slow Food Europe has been an active supporter of the ECI: it campaigned and collected signatures online, and hosted the thematic forum “The End of Cages” at last year’s Terra Madre Salone del Gusto.