Organic, no animals in cages


Thanks to the EU citizens’ initiative ‘

End the Cage Era

The debate on the use of cages on farms has resumed. It should be clarified how the sector biological
already ensures the

animal welfare

, also in this respect. All the more reason to accord confidence to this supply chain.

Organic farms, no animals in cages

EC Regulation 834/07-on organic production and labelling of organic products‘-provides the following with regard to livestock production.

It is prohibited
to keep animals tethered or in isolation, except for individual animals for a limited period and to the extent justified on veterinary, safety or animal welfare grounds.” (1)

EC Regulation 889/2008, in turn, requires that ”all young mammals shall be fed on mother’s milk, in preference to natural milk, for a minimum period of 3 months for cattle (…) and equids, 45 days for sheep and goats, and 40 days for pigs.’ (2)

Fixed housing is therefore prohibited, in the organic supply chain. And the minimum areas available to animals are far larger than the cramped space with which the concept of a ‘cage’ is associated. (3)

Organic farms include a group stall area (where gestating sows stay when they do not access the open areas, with a litter rest area), a farrowing area and a weaning room.

In practice, there is a tendency to separate the pregnant sows from the rest of the herd by putting them together with each other. In order to reduce the incidence of trauma abortions, which might instead occur if the entire herd were to live together.

Thus, for welfare and health requirements, piglets at birth are kept together with the sow in the weaning area, separate from the rest of the herd. For the good of all, also taking into account the aggressive attitude of the sow after farrowing, and the consequent need for careful control of the stable staff.

Organic farms, controls to ensure animal welfare

If ever an organic farm housed sows in cages (3.5 sq. m. in area, as provided on conventional farms) or otherwise in stalls smaller than those established by reg. EC 889/2008, there would be a finding of non-compliance, subject to appropriate penalty.

The first violation is sanctioned by warning, i.e., by an intimation to correct the noncompliance within a specified time and arrange appropriate corrective actions so that it does not recur.

In the event of non-compliance with the requirements imposed in the warning, or reiteration, a declaration of non-compliance of the products is triggered, from which the certification is withdrawn. Therefore, the operator is prohibited from making organic production method claims in the labeling of the whole family.

If then, following the withdrawal of certification, corrective measures are not put in place, the noncompliance assumes a substantial character that compromises the certification of the entire production process. The control body is then required to suspend certification or exclude the operator from the control system.

Anyone who becomes aware of non-compliant management of organic farms in Italy is still encouraged to make a report to the inspection body concerned (4), which is required to handle any complaint according to established procedures.

Dario Dongo


(1) Cf. reg. EC 834/07,


(2) See reg. EC 889/08, laying down detailed rules for the implementation of Regulation EC 834/07, Article 20.1

(3) At ‘Lactating sows with piglets up to 40 days old – Net covered area available for animals 7.5 sq. m.; Uncovered area (open spaces, excluding pastures) 2.5 sq. m.’ To which are added, for each of the ‘piglets up to 30 kg – Net covered area available for animals 0.6 sq. m.; Uncovered area (open spaces, excluding pastures) 0.4 sq. m.’ See. reg. EC 889/08, Art. 10.4 and Annex III

(4) Inspection body references for all Italian organic farms can be found at, which indicates the status Of each and enterprise and the name of its supervisory body

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.