The RSPCA has welcomed today’s announcement that Australia will finally phase out barren battery cages – a historic move that will improve the lives of millions of layer hens.
The news comes as national Poultry Standards and Guidelines – which have been under review for nearly seven years – have finally been completed, and include a phase out of battery cages for layer hens no later than 2036.
RSPCA Australia CEO Richard Mussell said this was a historic day and a significant win for animal welfare.
“This is a win for animal advocates and for the community, who have been calling for an end to these barren, wire cages for over 40 years,” said Mr Mussell. “But most importantly, it will eventually be a win for the millions of layer hens confined to battery cages.
“While this move can’t come soon enough, once implemented, it will bring Australia into line with over 75% of OECD countries who have already moved to phase out battery cages.
“While 2036 may seem a long way away – and it is – putting an end date in place is vitally important so that producers can transition to cage-free systems as soon as possible, and to make it clear to retailers and the food service industry that battery cages are on their way out.
“But there’s no reason that we need to wait until 2036 – states and territories can implement a phase out ahead of schedule. The ACT did this in 2014 and we urge all state and territory governments to do the right thing and implement a phase out as soon as possible.”
RSPCA Australia Chief Science Officer, Dr Suzie Fowler, said that the animal welfare science was clear that hens suffer in barren battery cages.
“This is one of the worst animal welfare issues in Australia right now,” said Dr Fowler.
“Good welfare simply can’t be achieved in a battery cage because the animal welfare issues are inherent to the system itself – restricted movement, constantly standing on a wire floor, and no ability for a hen to perform natural behaviours like perching, nesting and stretching and flapping her wings. So to finally see a phase out date put in place is very significant and we welcome today’s news.”
Mr Mussell said that this process has shone a light on the flaws in Australia’s current approach to the development and implementation of animal welfare standards.
“These Poultry Standards and Guidelines were under review for nearly seven years. The phase out is the right result, and it should have been put in place six years ago. Millions more layer hens have had to endure barren battery cages as a result of these delays.
“We look forward to working with the new Federal Government to deliver much-needed reform, to improve Australia’s approach to animal welfare standards and achieve better harmonisation of animal welfare practices across the country.”
According to Australian Bureau of Statistics data, in 2020-21, there were approximately 5.36 million layer hens confined to cages, which represents approximately 32% of the national flock. 19% were in barn-laid (indoor) systems and 49% in free-range systems.