Author: Dr Stephanie Hing, Animal Welfare Policy and Research Manager, RSPCA Western Australia and CAWSEL 2017 attendee
Can we get hens out of battery cages? Conventional battery cages were phased out in the EU by 2012 so you may be shocked to learn they are still widely used in the Australian egg industry today. This is one of the major animal welfare issues Australia faces right now.
Motivation to get hens out of battery cages has only strengthened since attending CAWSEL 2017 where we discussed decades of research on the animal welfare issues associated with conventional battery cages. It was invaluable to learn directly from scientists on the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Scientific Panel who undertook comprehensive analyses of all the issues.
In early 2018, the draft Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Poultry (The Standards) were released for public consultation. The Standards are supposed to outline the minimum requirements for the management of poultry going forward. Shockingly, the draft Standards still allowed hens to be kept in cramped barren cages. There were even allegations that the egg industry had colluded with the government to keep conventional battery cages.
Australian animal welfare organisations, scientists, some state governments and the majority of the general public recognised that overwhelming evidence indicates conventional battery cages pose unacceptable animal welfare risks. An unprecedented number (>165,000) of submissions were made to the public consultation on the Standards. We are now awaiting the outcome.
Will hens in Australia still be kept in conventional battery cages for years to come? Or will they be freed from extreme confinement?