Di­vided over fu­ture for caged hens

Tasmanian Country - - NEWS -

EGG farm­ers have wel­comed new pro­posed wel­fare reg­u­la­tions while the RSPCA has slammed them be­cause they do not ban cage pro­duc­tion.

The guide­lines, drafted by An­i­mal Health Aus­tralia, are open for pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion.

Egg Farm­ers of Aus­tralia chief ex­ec­u­tive John Dunn said the con­sul­ta­tion process was an op­por­tu­nity for a dis­cus­sion about egg-farm­ing prac­tices based on facts.

“An­i­mal wel­fare is im­por­tant to farm­ers, and they know that healthy hens lay more eggs,” Mr Dunn said.

“This is why we want stan­dards en­shrined in law. Farm­ers have spent half a bil­lion dol­lars over the past 20 years to bring their cages up to best prac­tice, so we want to give the com­mu­nity con­fi­dence that our hens are well treated, whether they are free range, in a barn, or in a cage.”

The RSPCA is push­ing to elim­i­nate caged pro­duc­tion sys­tems and says it is out­raged by the draft guide­lines.

RSPCA Aus­tralia chief ex­ec­u­tive Heather Neil said the or­gan­i­sa­tion had been a vo­cal critic of the stan­dards and guide­lines process for some time, but was still shocked by the re­sult­ing draft.

“To put it bluntly, we’re gut­ted,” she said. “These stan­dards are an em­bar­rass­ment and the com­mu­nity should re­spond to them as such.

“These stan­dards are not based on sci­ence, are not sus­tain­able, and will not im­prove an­i­mal wel­fare in line with com­mu­nity ex­pec­ta­tions.”

She said re­search showed 84 per cent of Aus­tralians wanted an end to cage eggs.

“New Zealand, Canada, the United King­dom and the en­tire Euro­pean Union have de­cided that bat­tery cages must go, why is Aus­tralia fall­ing be­hind?” Ms Neil said.

The fi­nal de­ci­sion on the draft reg­u­la­tions will rest with the state and fed­eral agri­cul­ture min­is­ters.

Tas­ma­nia has about 12 com­mer­cial egg pro­duc­ers and two use cages for part of their pro­duc­tion.

A Tas­ma­nian egg-in­dus­try spokesman said mar­ket forces were the main fac­tor in de­ter­min­ing the type of pro­duc­tion sys­tem used.

“We wouldn’t pro­duce freerange eggs un­less we knew we could sell them and the we also wouldn’t pro­duce caged eggs un­less we could sell them.”

The ma­jor­ity of eggs are sold through su­per­mar­kets but the food-ser­vice in­dus­try is a sig­nif­i­cant mar­ket where price is a crit­i­cal fac­tor.

Per capita egg con­sump­tion is on the rise and the spokesman said while some in­ter­state eggs were sold here, Tas­ma­nian con­sumers sup­ported lo­cal pro­duc­ers’ ef­forts to con­sis­tently sup­ply the mar­ket.

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