GAIA goes on a campaign tour against cages

GAIA goes on a campaign tour against cages

GAIA action
16 August 2019

GAIA goes on a campaign tour against cages

On 25 July, GAIA launched its summer campaign in Brussels, attended by an outstanding ambassador: the Belgian sprinter Kevin Borlée. The Olympic athlete was imprisoned in a cage at Rue Neuve in Brussels, to protest the conditions in which 300 million animals are raised in Europe. Until 16 August GAIA is stopping off at 12 towns and cities across the country, campaigning on the theme “Exit les Cages” / “Exit the Cage Age”, a European citizens’ initiative aimed at banning all cage systems in Europe, supported by over 130 European animal-protection NGOs.

On 25 July, an extraordinary scene took place in the middle of Rue Neuve in Brussels. Under a leaden sky, our national firebrand Kevin Borlée posed inside a cage placed alongside a dummy sow, also imprisoned, while holding up placards with the slogan: “I’m a Cage Fighter”. Powerful, symbolic images, which did the rounds of the social media and the internet.

A committed citizen, and sympathetic to the animal protection cause, Kevin Borlée has been engaged as a GAIA ambassador to raise awareness of the millions of factory farmed animals that are forced to live behind bars each year. “I’m making this commitment because I love animals”, Kevin Borlée explains. “When we see the conditions in which they’re being raised, we have to ask why we don’t change this. They should be allowed to live with a little dignity. We have to change attitudes and increase public awareness.

“Cage Fighters” engaged

Almost 5,000 Belgians have, like him, joined the movement in Wallonia and Flanders. Not only that; they travelled en masse to meet our volunteers and sign the “Exit les Cages” / “Exit the Cage Age” petition. Moreover, whether it was Tournai, Namur, Liège, Charleroi, Arlon or Eupen, hundreds of them agreed to be imprisoned in a cage for a photo-opportunity. “A “Cage Fighter” is someone who fights for animal rights. It’s a movement that has flooded the Web. By publishing their photo on social networks, these people are sending out a strong signal to society. Cages belong to a bygone age. It’s high time to put a stop to this!”, says Michel Vandenbosch.

The action forms part of the “Exit les Cages” / “Exit the Cage Age” campaign, a European citizens’ initiative aimed at banning the use of cages in European factory farms. “In Europe, over 300 million animals are reared in caged systems every year. These cages are cruel”, says Michel Vandenbosch, GAIA chairman. “Cages have horrible effects on animals such as rabbits, quails, ducks, geese, chickens and sows. Some of these animals never see natural daylight; others such as sows cannot even turn around...”.

In Belgium there are over four million animals being imprisoned: chickens, pigs, quails, ducks and calves. They have no room to move and are unable to express or develop their natural behaviour. “In Belgium, the vast majority of farm animals are reared intensively in cages”, Michel Vandenbosch continues. “Life in a cage is a life of suffering, frustration and deprivation. Putting an end to cages will undermine breeding on an industrial scale, which is neither sustainable nor morally acceptable, and constitutes an economic aberration.

Grand coalition

Faced with this fact, GAIA has joined forces with more than 130 NGOs to secure a ban on the use of cages in Europe. This is coming about through a European Citizens’ Initiative. Launched in autumn 2018, this ECI has already collected over a million signatures. Through their summer campaign, GAIA and its partners have succeeded in passing the crucial threshold of 1.3 million signatures. Each and every vote counts in this mega-petition. This is because if, once identities have been verified and any duplicates have been eliminated, the authorities validate more than a million signatures, the Commission will be obliged to issue a formal response to the demand and to hold a hearing before the European Parliament. “We want to see a gradual ban on cages, including clear deadlines, also that breeders should be given support and guidance in the switch to alternative systems”, Michel Vandenbosch pleads.

Viable solutions

Even more viable solutions are emerging in Europe. In Denmark for example, it’s now ten years since factory farmers began to use systems that give nursing sows more freedom. This model, which was elaborated together with professional organisations, equipment manufacturers and animal-protection associations, is financially viable. With regard to Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, several years ago they banned the use of calving cages with permanent confinement. Since 2017, Austrian law has required free sow-calving in all new-build construction. “Contrary to what the industry claims, when a sow is allowed to nurse freely, she does not crush her piglets. Quite the opposite: she is then able to show maternal behaviour like all sentient animals”, Michel Vandenbosch notes. These measures are evidence of society’s increasing concern for the welfare of animals raised on farms. Solutions are available, but they need to be supported by Europe. But at Belgian level, it’s essential that all three regions should engage with the subject.

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