Battery cages for laying hens will be phased out in Australia – but not for 14 years at the earliest, under new animal welfare standards and guidelines for poultry.
Under the new guidelines, egg producers must provide all caged hens with 750cm² of usable space per bird if kept in a cage of two or more birds and up to 1m² of space if kept alone in a cage. In addition, all laying hens should have access to perching platforms and a sealed veranda as well as scratching and nesting areas.
Broiler farmers should provide birds with “environmental enrichment” and ensure that a minimum light intensity is maintained. This includes dark periods, ventilation and temperature parameters for all species as per guidelines.
However, Egg Farmers of Australia – the national representative body for Australian egg farmers – issued a statement saying it was ‘dissatisfied’ with the new guidelines as they did not allow the ‘option’ to continue production. conventional egg market for another 24 years.
“The document indicates that conventional cage farming must end with a suggested timeline as early as 2031 and no later than 2036,” said Melinda Hashimoto, CEO of the organization.
“It’s 10 years too soon and could drive many family egg farmers to the wall. Indeed, bank loans can be spread over 30 years for existing cages and equipment. Farmers no longer have time to repay this debt before having to throw out their cages. »
The organization said conventional cages contribute almost 50% of all egg production in the country.
On the contrary, animal rights organizations hailed the announcement, calling it a “historic move”.
Richard Mussell, CEO of RSPCA Australia, said: “This is a victory for animal advocates and for the community, who have been calling for an end to these sterile wire cages for over 40 years.
“The lead time is much longer than we would like, especially as the normalization process itself has been dragging on for nearly seven years. However, setting an end date is a big win for animal welfare and will ultimately be a huge improvement in the lives of the millions of Australian laying hens currently confined to sterile battery cages.
Mussell described 14 years as an “unusually long” timeframe for elimination, especially when the scientific and evidence-based decision is so long overdue.
“Either way, putting in place an end date for battery cages will give producers certainty so that relatively fewer caged egg producers can join the many cage-free farmers we applaud. to have already made the change and transition to cageless systems. as soon as possible.”
He insisted that states and territories can implement phase-out ahead of schedule instead of waiting until 2036.
“While this decision cannot come soon enough, when implemented it will bring Australia into line with over 75% of OECD countries that have already decided to phase out battery cages.”
The Independent Poultry Welfare Panel, mandated by all Agriculture Ministers in 2019, conducted a thorough review of poultry standards by consulting with stakeholders, community members and animal welfare groups to update the above guidelines.