EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski has promised ‘to work intensively’ to implement the goals of the EU ‘End the Cage Age’ campaign, following a debate in the European Parliament.
But he has promised an ‘appropriate’ transition and support for producers to help them adapt.
Last week, the European Citizens Initiative (ECI) ‘End of cage age’ petition, which has been signed by 1.4 million people across more than 18 member states, was discussed at a joint public hearing of the European Parliament’s petition (PETI) and agriculture (AGRI) committees.
The petition calls for the end of farrowing crates and various other forms of farm confinement, including enriched laying hen cages and individual calf pens.
During the public hearing, Mr Wojciechowski promised campaigners ‘to work intensively’ to put the initiative into legislation: “The European Commission truly wants to improve animal welfare. And I personally care about this,” he added, according to Euractiv.
Afterwards, on Twitter, Mr Wojciechowski confirmed the Commission had ‘tentatively scheduled’ a communication in early June setting out its response to the petition.
“Whatever changes will be ultimately decided will have to provide for appropriate transition periods which give sufficient time to farmers to adapt but also incentives to change,” he said.
“Farmers should not have to support alone the costs of the transformation. As this is a societal demand, society should support our farmers.
“We also need to make sure that imported animal products have been produced according to the same animal welfare standards applied by EU farmers and accepted by our citizens.”
He added that under the EU’s Trade Policy Review, the Commission has specified that ‘under certain circumstances as defined by WTO rules, it is appropriate for the EU to require that imported products comply with certain production requirements’.
“Other issues that need attention are the consequences for the food supply, notably food price and farm gate price. These are issues that have to be considered and put together into a common consistent framework,” the commissioner added.
Food safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides and Commission vice-president Věra Jourová were also supportive, Euractiv reported.
“The Commission attaches the highest importance to ideas submitted by other European citizens initiative instrument, and that it takes all successful initiatives very seriously,” Ms Jourová said.
There has been growing speculation that the UK Government could announce a ban on conventional farrowing crates soon.
Animal Welfare Minister Zac Goldsmith insisted the Government would ‘not compromise’ the UK’s high welfare standards, but refused to commit to banning imports of pork produced using farrowing crates, if a ban is introduced, when he was questioned in the House of Lords recently by Baroness Rosie Boycott.
“Will he level up the playing field and ensure that our trade rules ensure that animal compassion is in all our supply chains?” she asked.
Responding Lord Goldsmith said: “The new pig welfare code of practice, which came into force in March last year, states that the aim is to phase out the use of farrowing crates in the UK and for any new system to protect the welfare of the sow as well as her piglets.
“We are continuing to work with the industry on this issue. In relation to imports of substandard produce, as set out in our manifesto and repeated many times since, both by the Prime Minister and by other Ministers, we will not compromise on our high animal welfare standards in the pursuit of free trade agreements. That is a commitment that we are absolutely committed to and will stick to.”