The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) “End the Cage Age” was closed last night, celebrating over 1.5 million signatures gained during a 12-month period. The initiative which aims to end the use of cages for farm animals across the European Union marks one of the most significant days for animal farming and demonstrates the importance of citizens’ voice to the EU decision-making process. Slow Food Europe has been among 170 environmental, consumer rights and animal protection groups, which joined forces for a collaborative effort to make a much-needed change in animal farming.
After one year of a huge effort, a finish line in the biggest political push in farm animal welfare history has been crossed. However, the fight to get animals out of cages is not over yet. Now it is the European Commission’s turn. It will have to adopt a formal response spelling out what action it will propose in response to the citizens’ initiative.
In reality, only a few ECIs have been successful, failing to hit the required minimum target of 1 million signatures. Slow Food Europe and other organizations involved are sure that with over 1.5 million signatures the “End the Cage Age” initiative makes a strong statement: the Commission will not be able to ignore just how important farm animal welfare is to citizens of the EU.
Across the EU, over 300 million pigs, hens, rabbits, ducks, quail, and calves are imprisoned in cages. Most cages are barren, cramped, and deny the animals space to move freely. That inhibits their basic natural behaviors like scratching about or flapping their wings, and some are so small that the animals can’t even turn around.
Slow Food Europe has been an active supporter of the ECI: it campaigned and collected signatures online, organized an opened a thematic forum “The End of Cages” at last year’s Terra Madre Salone del Gusto. The ECI “End the Cage Age ECI” has brought a network of over 170 non-governmental organizations. This is the first time in history that this number of European organizations has come together for farm animals. The initiative was launched by farm animal welfare charity Compassion in World Farming.