Fate of millions of hens in limbo after inconclusive ag ministers’ meeting

The RSPCA welcomed news today that state and territory agriculture ministers have endorsed new national Poultry Standards and Guidelines – paving the way for a long-overdue phase out of barren battery cages – but said it was disappointing there is still no certainty on a timeframe for Australia’s millions of layer hens.

RSPCA Australia CEO Richard Mussell said a phase out of battery cages was long overdue and couldn’t come soon enough.

“These small, barren wire cages, where each hen has space that’s less than a piece of A4 paper, are a cruel and outdated farming system and simply have no place in modern Australia,” said Mr Mussell.

“That’s why it’s good news to see positive steps on this issue today.

“But there needed to be clarity on the phase out date and exact implementation plans, to protect animal welfare, achieve consistency across jurisdictions, and give certainty to Australian producers.

“So while it’s good news that the standards have been endorsed, it’s disappointing that implementation timing is still being left up to states and territories – because that means there’s no guarantee that battery cages will be gone by the recommended 2036 deadline.

“We look forward to state and territory governments, as soon as possible, making their intentions clear about how they will implement the standards into legislation, including how they will do so by - or ahead of - the phase out date of 2036.

“We commend those states and territories who have already made positive commitments on this issue and hope that all states and territories will do the same.

“Over 75% of OECD countries have already moved to phase out battery cages – it’s time that Australia joined them.

Mr Mussell also said today's outcome was a sign of Australia’s broken approach to developing and implementing animal welfare standards.

“This process so far has taken nearly eight years, and countless layer hens have suffered because of these delays, which are still not entirely resolved.

“Australia must improve our approach to animal welfare standards and start being serious about how we achieve consistency across state and territory borders.”