Campaigners have called on the UK and Welsh governments to follow the EU’s lead in phasing out cage systems for a variety of farmed animals.
Last week, the European Commission said that by 2023 it would propose legislation to prohibit the use of cages for a host of farm animals including laying hens, sows, calves, rabbits, pullets, broiler breeders, layer breeders, quail, ducks and geese. It said it would look to phase them out by 2027.
It came as part of the commission’s response to the European Citizens' Initiative (ECI), ‘end the cage age’, which saw backing from more than 1.4 million citizens, including over 54,000 from the UK.
The RSPCA has called on the UK government in England, and Welsh government in Wales, to follow Europe’s lead and end cage systems for animals in the UK. It called the EU commitment “a landmark day for European animal welfare”.
Compassion in World Farming said it was crucial Britain did not get left “trailing behind the EU in improving farm animal welfare”.
Polling for end the cage age found more than 16 million farm animals in the UK live in caged systems and only 66% of farm animals that could be caged across the UK are presently reared in cage-free conditions
In both England and Wales, farrowing crates are permitted for sows, while many laying hens are confined to so-called enriched cages, which the RSPCA says can still compromise welfare. Game birds and rabbits are among the other species still farmed in cages in England and Wales.
“The public spoke so forcefully via a European Citizens' Initiative, with over one million citizens – including over 54,000 from the UK – making it clear that they won't stand for this,” said RSPCA chief executive Chris Sherwood.
"We must now see the UK and Welsh governments act too, to ensure we do not fall behind. Sadly, we know laying hens, game birds and rabbits are among the millions of animals still cramped in farm cages, or so-called enriched cages.”