An EU initiative seeks to end the practice

By Charalampos Theopemptou

Since 2012, the European Union has in place a procedure known as Citizens Initiative with the objective of providing a way for EU citizens to promote their concerns and suggestions so that EU bodies take action.

For such an initiative to succeed, 1 million citizens from at least seven EU member states need to sign for the European Commission to propose legal action.

One such action known as the Right2Water, gained a lot of publicity and as a result of it, we now have an EU directive in place.

Since then, a number of initiatives have gained the attention of the European bodies such as the one calling for the EU to put an end to cage systems on animal farms, the sixth successful initiative in the last eight years.

The EU has responded stating that by the end of 2023, a legislative proposal to phase out, and finally prohibit, the use of cage systems for all animals mentioned in the initiative will take place.

In particular, the EU Commission stated that its proposal will be dealing with:

  • Animals already covered by legislation: laying hens, sows and calves;
  • Other animals mentioned in the initiative: rabbits, pullets, quail, ducks and geese and the types of hens known as layer breeders and broiler breeders. For these animals, the commission has already asked EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) to complement the existing scientific evidence to determine the conditions needed to prohibit cages.
  • Phase out the use of cages for farmed animals across Europe by 2027.
  • Ensure that all imported products in the EU comply with future cage-free standards

Another concern of the commission is that putting an end to cages will also require changes to current farming systems. So before proceeding they will do a study to identify the social, environmental and economic implications of the possible measures. This together with the mandatory public consultation is planned for the end of this year.

The NGO that runs the campaign rates Cyprus at number 18, with the first three countries being Austria, Luxembourg and Sweden.

European farmers have already voiced their strong objections to this and consider the demands of this initiative as being too vague.

In Europe they say we have the best animal welfare laws and the use of the word “cage” provokes negative feelings among the public.

I fear to think how Cyprus will respond to this directive when time comes for the changes to take place.

I still remember the recent vote in parliament where the Green Party tried to put an end to cages for dogs, that had no other political support and failed.

To my mind the only way forward is to prepare the ground before the directive enters into force. We need to see what we do, educate the farmers, evaluate the cost of all these changes, prepare practices and fund the cost.

Charalampos Theopemptou is an MP and interim leader of the Cyprus Green Party