Cages in animal farming

Over 300 million farm animals, including hens, quails, rabbits, sows and ducks, are confined in cages on farms in the European Union each year.

Many of them are kept this way for all or most of their lives. Caged animals are severely restricted in their movements and prevented from performing their natural behaviours, with detrimental effects on their health and welfare, as several investigations by animal NGOs have shown comprehensively. 

A documented investigation carried out by Anima International in Poland in 2023 revealed serious welfare issues and irregularities in caged hens, including injured and sick hens left without treatment and dying in cages. Almost one million caged hens and tens of thousands in barns are reared on this farm in confined conditions that have led to multiple cases of aggression and acts of cannibalism. Similar findings were documented in investigations by Essere Animali, Equalia and Humánny Pokrok.

In another undercover investigation in 2023, AnimaNaturalis looked at what was happening behind the scenes across  10 rabbit farms in Castilla y León, Catalonia, Aragón, and Castilla-La Mancha. Their footage shows caged rabbits injured, crowded, dead and decomposing, living in spaces only slightly bigger than an A5 piece of paper. Essere Animali, Otwarte Klatki and L214 reported similar findings in their investigative work.  

Finally, investigations carried out by our members LAV, AnimaNaturalis and Oikeutta Eläimille in 2023 highlight the awful conditions caged sows face in industrial systems. The cages they live within completely enclose their bodies, preventing them from walking or turning around and making it impossible to properly care for their piglets. All they can do in such a tight space is stand or lie down.


certified signatures were collected during the End the Cage Age European Citizens' Initiative


of EU citizens believe it is important to ensure animals are not kept in individual cages

158 million +

farm animals are reared in cages across the EU

This ranking published by Compassion in World Farming evaluates all 27 EU Member States based on how many farm animals they are keeping in cages. It reveals that despite progress in some areas, no nation has achieved the status of being completely free from cages, with millions of sows, calves, quails, rabbits, hens, ducks, and geese continuing to be caged for all or part of their lives, often under appalling conditions.

At the lowest position on the ranking is Malta, with a distressing figure of 99% of farm animals living in cages. Following closely are Spain, Portugal, and France, with caged animal percentages of 87%, 81%, and 66%, respectively. In contrast, Germany reports only 13% of its farm animals are kept in cages. Even in nations leading the way in reducing the number of animals being caged, like Austria with 3% and Luxembourg with 2%, it is estimated that there are still hundreds of thousands of animals living in confinement.


European citizens overwhelmingly support an end to caged animal farming. A total of 1,4 million certified signatures were collected during the EndTheCageAge European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) to make cages history for farm animals. 

Launched in September 2018 by Compassion in World Farming, in partnership with Eurogroup for Animals and over 160 other animal protection and environmental organisations, ‘End The Cage Age’ was one of the most successful ECIs ever. 

In response, the European Commission committed to revising the EU's animal welfare legislation in 2023, yet there has been no progress on the update regarding the Kept Animals proposal, which would include the ban on cages. Despite significant public support demonstrated through the ECI and 2023 Eurobarometer on animal welfare, where 89% of EU citizens claimed it is important to ensure that animals are not kept in individual cages, the issue was absent from European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen's State of the Union Address in September 2023, and the subsequent 2024 letter of intent.


Directive 98/58/EC on the protection of animals kept for farming purposes stipulates that “the freedom of movement of an animal […] must not be restricted to cause unnecessary suffering”. It also states that “where an animal is continuously or regularly confined, it must be given the space appropriate to its physiological and ethological needs in accordance with established experience and scientific knowledge”. 

Yet confinement systems continue to be routinely used in many Member States. Veal crates were banned in 2007, but calves are confined individually in pens for the first eight weeks of their lives. While the EU ban on the use of barren battery cages came into force in 2012, over half of commercial egg-laying hens are still kept in so-called ‘enriched’ cages. 

Breeding flocks and chicks are also caged, often in barren cages, as they are not covered by specific legislation. A partial ban on sow stalls came into force in 2013, and from 2021, cages will be prohibited in all organic farming throughout the EU.

Some Member States have already introduced national legislation banning or gradually phasing out certain forms of caged farming. On the one hand, it is a positive change for the animals living in these countries, but on the other hand, this fragmented legislative landscape creates confusion and an unlevel playing field in the EU. A true solution is unifying and revising the outdated animal welfare legislation.