The RSPCA‚Äôs opposition to weak and flawed new poultry welfare standards have been justified, after an ABC 730 story aired details of behind-the-scenes collusion and inappropriate behaviour by the egg industry and the NSW Government.
‚ÄúSadly, the evidence uncovered by the ABC and its sources has validated our position and proven our concerns were well-founded,‚Äù said RSPCA Australia Senior Policy Officer Dr Jed Goodfellow.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôve participated in this process in good faith, thinking it would provide a genuine opportunity to improve animal welfare standards within Australia‚Äôs poultry industries. That faith has now been well and truly destroyed,‚Äù he said.
‚ÄúThis is the very definition of the foxes being in charge of the henhouse ‚Äì the industry is heavily influencing the very legislation that will regulate its practices,
‚ÄúAs a community, we can‚Äôt allow this kind of behaviour to go unchecked,
‚ÄúIt is an affront to the millions of Australians who care about the welfare of animals,
‚ÄúIt should already be of grave concern that these so-called ‚Äòanimal welfare standards‚Äô have been comprehensively rejected by every animal welfare group engaged to support them ‚Äì and now everyone will understand why,‚Äù said Dr Goodfellow.
‚ÄúThis is collusion, not consultation ‚Äì it‚Äôs secretive, it‚Äôs exclusive, it‚Äôs strategising behind the scenes to manipulate the process toward a specific result,‚Äù he said.
‚ÄúThe only way for this process to salvage any shred of legitimacy will be for the Standards to be amended to reflect what the community very clearly says they want through the public consultation,
‚ÄúAnd we‚Äôll know if that happens, because the Standards will be amended to include a date for an end to the battery cage, among other things,
‚ÄúIf they don‚Äôt, then they won‚Äôt be worth the paper they‚Äôre written on, and state governments will then have to account for a process that‚Äôs been abandoned by some of its most important stakeholders,‚Äù said Dr Goodfellow.
‚ÄúThe evidence in this latest story confirms the farm animal welfare system in this country is broken, and the community‚Äôs outrage over this is absolutely warranted,
‚ÄúThis is not about laying blame at the individuals involved, it is about reforming the system to ensure conflicts of interest are removed, and scientific evidence and community expectations are restored to the centre where they should be,‚Äù he said.
‚ÄúResponsible state government departments can no longer deny there is a problem. They need to act,
‚ÄúNow is the time for state and territory agriculture ministers to show leadership, act upon the community‚Äôs clearly-expressed opinion, and phase out battery cages for good,‚Äù said Dr Goodfellow.
To express your concern and protect the welfare of Australian farm animals, visit https://www.rspca.org.au/layer-hen-welfare.
To follow this issue, sign up to the RSPCA‚Äôs e-news at www.rspca.org.au.
The RSPCA is Australia‚Äôs leading animal welfare organisation and one of Australia‚Äôs most trusted charities. The RSPCA works to prevent cruelty to animals by actively promoting their care and protection.
¬∑ The process of converting the current voluntary Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Poultry to the enforceable Australian Standards and Guidelines for the Welfare of Poultry commenced in 2015.
¬∑ Documents obtained under Freedom of Information (which can be provided on request) show that a NSW Government regulator met with poultry industry leaders on 6/10/15, 19/1/16, and 23/2/16 before official stakeholder advisory group meetings began where the following was discussed:
Need to set scene for Stakeholder Advisory Group when papers go out
Rules of engagement for Stakeholder Advisory Group
Expectations of meeting
What will be accepted/not
Banning cages not the remit of the Stakeholder Advisory Group
PMG [Poultry Management Group] should be industry champions to help drive process forward. Expect that they defend Standards and Guidelines
Wants industry to highlight major issues for and against
Egg industry reasonably happy with first draft
¬∑ Documents also show that the NSW Government regulator deleted basic animal welfare principles from the draft Standards relating to the ability of hens to ‚Äúperform normal patterns of behaviour‚Äù because ‚Äúcan‚Äôt do this in battery cages.‚Äù
¬∑ Documents also note that industry was to help draft and review scientific support papers on contentious poultry welfare issues subject to the Standards.
¬∑ The UK, European Union, New Zealand, Canada, and several US states have phased out or are in the process of phasing out conventional battery cages.
¬∑ The Victorian Government commissioned its own scientific review in 2017 which found ‚ÄúThe conventional cage system prevents birds from performing basic movements essential for good health (walking, wing stretching), and denies birds the possibility of expressing their behavioural needs to roost, nest and forage, or their motivation to dust-bathe, due to an inherent lack of resources‚Äù and ‚ÄúFurthermore, the restricted space per hen in battery cages is ‚Äúassociated with increased mortality, an increase in physiological stress and compromised immune function.‚Äù
¬∑ These objective findings are consistent with the RSPCA‚Äôs own peer-reviewed and published comprehensive scientific review.
Independent research commissioned by the RSPCA in November 2017 found 84% of Australians want battery cages phased out, while for 65% of Australians, concern over battery cages impacts upon their decision whether to buy or eat eggs or chicken.