By Kate Abnett
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Parliament on Thursday called for the European Union to end caged farming of animals and ban force-feeding of ducks and geese to produce foie gras.
The EU assembly approved a report asking the European Commission to propose legislation to phase out the use of cages in EU animal farming, possibly by 2027.
The advisory vote was prompted by a citizens' initiative that drew 1.4 million signatures.
The phase-out should be based on the different needs of each species, the Parliament said.
It also asked the Commission to propose a ban on "cruel and unnecessary" force-feeding of ducks and geese, which is done to fatten the birds' liver for foie gras, a delicacy popular in France.
"Acting to improve the welfare of animals is an ethical, social, and economic imperative," EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides said.
The Commission would need to propose a ban, which would then need approval from EU member states and the Parliament. It is currently reviewing the bloc's animal welfare legislation.
EU animal welfare standards are among the world's highest, including restrictions already on some caged farming. It banned tightly packed battery cages for hens in 2012, while allowing "furnished" cages that provide more space and features such as perches. Countries including Austria and Luxembourg have banned all hen cages, while other countries plan to do so this decade.
Still, more than 90% of the EU's farmed rabbits are housed in cages, and in 2019 half of laying hens were kept in cages, Parliament said. Parliament said there were "grave concerns" about conditions in farming where animals lack the space to stand fully or turn around.
Parliament said the EU must also ensure farmers have sufficient financial support to help them invest in higher welfare standards. Animal products imported into the EU should also comply with the bloc's standards, it said.
(Reporting by Kate Abnett; editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Steve Orlofsky)