Food industry giants like Nestle and Unilever have buckled to pressure from the animal activist organizations, vowing to release hens from cages worldwide. Alongside several other food producers, the companies partnered with Compassion in World Farming for its End the Cage initiative in an effort to free all livestock hens from cages. Nestle and Unilever together plan to move towards a full-scale phase-out of all cages within the European agricultural sector, reworking this cruel food production practice.

Nestle has already gone cage-free in the European Union, having previously promised to abolish 100 percent of its cages for the company’s egg-producing hens in 2017. The company announced yesterday that it succeeded in its goal, and plans to use this momentum to encourage other companies to take the same pledge. Nestle and Unilever, alongside companies ALDI Nord, IKEA, and Mondelez Internation, sent a letter to Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) commending the End the Cage Initiative, showcasing a full industry shift towards animal welfare. Although mostly limited to European industries, the move affects food production internationally.

“We are proud to have achieved 100 percent cage-free eggs in our food products across Europe,” Nestle Executive Vice President and Head of Operations Magdi Batato said. “We fully support the Compassion in World Farming initiative to outlaw cages for laying hens.”

The End the Cage initiative launched its campaign in 2018, taking a stance against factory farming in Europe. The initiative collected 1.4 million signatures that called for a ban against laying-hen cages. The animal welfare campaign focuses on the meat industry’s high demand for these hens that typically face slaughter within two years. Beyond that, the spread of disease occurs quickly within the caged facilities, which sometimes leads to the large-scale slaughter of diseased chickens.

“A wealth of animal welfare science research demonstrates that animals suffer in cages and that well-managed cage-free systems provide them with a much better quality of life,” the letter reads. “Companies moving away from eggs from caged hens have paved the way for changing how EUfarmed animals are kept. Cage-free systems are widespread, economically viable, and provide better living conditions for hens.”

The companies’ decision to outlaw cages and alter factory farming standards comes alongside a rapidly changing public opinion towards food production. With more people consciously thinking about how food is sourced, the treatment of animals finds itself in the spotlight. The letter from the End the Cage initiative emphasizes the popular support for change and more specific legislative action. The report claims that 94 percent of Europeans believe that animal welfare should become a priority. The staggering statistics show why the food giants find themselves pushed to procedural change.

“The revision of animal welfare legislation presents the ideal opportunity for a legal basis to end the use of cages in EU animal farming,” the letter continues. “Staring with caged hens, and supporting farmers in the transition we are ready and willing to share our expertise and collaborate on achieving that goal.”
Even though the End the Cage initiative sights remain limited to European agricultural sectors, the campaign showcases the idea that factory farming can be changed for the better. Until recently, companies including Nestle sourced solely from caged hens, proving that pressure from consumers and activists has a real impact on these large industries.