The European Union will work to phase out caged animal farming across the bloc, after a petition calling for an end to the practice gathered more than a million signatures.
The European Commission has outlined plans to propose legislation which would phase out – and ultimately ban – cages for farm animals, including rabbits, young hens, quails, ducks and geese.
The changes would be suggested by 2023 and introduced by 2027, the Commission said in a statement Wednesday.
Currently, only laying hens, broiler chickens, sows and calves are covered by the EU rules on caging.
“Animals are sentient beings and we have a moral, societal responsibility to ensure that on-farm conditions for animals reflect this,” Stella Kyriakides, commissioner for health and food safety, said in a statement.
Campaign groups welcomed the proposed changes.
“Today, the European Commission made a historic decision to leave a legacy for farmed animals,” Olga Kikou, head of EU at Compassion in World Farming, said in a statement.
“Citizens demanded change and the Commission received the message loud and clear, making an unequivocal and visionary commitment to phase out cages. The tide is finally turning. We will stay focused on the European institutions until they deliver on this ambition and will be vigilant in preventing vested interests from watering it down.
“Factory farming is the biggest cause of cruelty to sentient creatures on the planet. Ending the use of cages is a massive step towards ending factory farming,” she added.
Eurogroup for Animals, a lobby group based in Brussels, Belgium, said the changes would affect more than 300 million farmed animals on the continent.
Reineke Hameleers, Eurogroup for Animals CEO, said the commitment to end caged animal farming would have a “huge impact for millions of animals.”