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Caged hen in a farm

Spanish Presidency of the EU and its relation to End The Cage Age

The Spanish Presidency of the Council of the EU is an opportunity for Spain to lead the end of cages for 300 million animals. Spain holds the Presidency of the Council of the EU in the second half of 2023, starting on the 1st of July. This period will coincide with the publication of the first draft of the future regulation to end cages for farm animals, based on the End the Cage Age initiative.

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Caged hen in a farm

Blanca Ponce, Lawyer - Specialist in institutional relations

July 24 2023

On the 30th of June of 2021, the European Commission announced a legislative proposal based on the European Citizens' Initiative "End the Cage Age" which aims to phase out the use of cages for laying hens, cows, calves, rabbits, pullets, breeders, laying hens, broiler breeders, quails, ducks, and geese.

This initiative, which was promoted by several animal welfare NGOs, gathered more than 1.4 million signatures, calling for an end to cages for food-producing animals. In 2021, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of legislation to ban cages and urged the European Commission to legislate on the issue.

The Commission is currently working with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on the first draft of the Regulation that will put an end to cages, which is expected to be published by the end of 2023, coinciding with the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

More than 1.4 million signatures calling for an end to cages for food-producing animals

Spain may lead the end of cages from the I EU Council presidency

The Presidency of the Council is an opportunity to push for the future Regulation against cages, as the presiding country negotiates and adopts EU legislation, together with the European Parliament, and coordinates the policies of the Member States.

A "qualified majority" of 55% of the states (i.e. 15 countries out of the current 27 members) representing at least 65% of the total EU population is needed to adopt decisions in the Council. In order to block a decision, at least four countries (representing at least 35% of the total EU population) are needed.

This voting system is particularly relevant for the future End the Cage Age regulation, because, depending on the position of each country and its number of inhabitants, one level of protection or another will be established. For example, we already know that some countries are in favour, such as Germany and Belgium. Spain has not yet made a public pronouncement.

Situation of livestock farming in Spain and Europe

In Spain, approximately 900M land animals are slaughtered every year. Of these, the majority are poultry, hens, chickens, ducks, and geese.

As far as hens are concerned, the production data published by the Ministry of Agriculture show an evolution in the number of hens slaughtered each year.

Agriculture shows a 23% increase in the number of hens raised on the ground and a 5% decrease in the number of cages, with a total number of 47 million hens.

At EU level, Spain would rank 3rd in egg production according to the European Commission's expert forecast group, behind France and Germany.

Extreme confinement remains a feature of farming systems for many species, from sows forced to suckle their piglets in cages, to rabbits and quail that endure lifetimes in empty cages, to ducks and geese caged for force-feeding to produce foie gras.

The same applies to calves, which are confined individually in small pens for the first 8 weeks of their lives.

Some EU Member States have already introduced national legislation to ban certain forms of cage farming

All sow crates (sow stalls and farrowing crates) are banned in Sweden.

Germany will end the use of sow crates by 2030, and restrict the time spent in farrowing crates to a maximum of five days from 2035. Enriched cages for laying hens are banned in Luxembourg and Austria; they will also be banned in Germany and Slovakia from 2025 and 2030 respectively. Also, in September 2020, Czech MPs voted in favour of banning cages for laying hens.

As far as rabbits are concerned, almost 120 million rabbits are commercially reared in the EU alone and almost all of them are confined in cages for their entire lives. Each one is kept in such a small space that all basic natural behaviours are nullified and, in addition, most of these animals are imprisoned in cages so that they can be force-fed.  

Equalia regrets that both keeping animals in cages and force-feeding them are inhumane and completely unnecessary practices. The future regulation based on the European citizens' initiative End the Cage Age will promote an end to cages that will have an impact on 300 million animals, if it has the support of large producer countries, and especially Spain, which presides over the EU Council since the 1st of July.

The future regulation based on the European citizens' initiative End the Cage Age will promote an end to cages that will have an impact on 300 million animals

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Blanca Ponce

Lawyer - Specialist in institutional relations

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