The RSPCA has reiterated its strong support for a long-overdue phase out of barren battery cages – following an unprecedented rise in disinformation from cage egg advocates.
The call from Australia’s most trusted animal welfare organisation comes as Australian agriculture ministers are due to meet in Perth tomorrow, to consider implementation of the national Poultry Standards and Guidelines, which were finalised in August last year.
RSPCA Australia CEO Richard Mussell said that the scaremongering and disinformation from cage egg advocates was disappointing, but not surprising, especially when it is used as a distraction from animal welfare.
“It’s very disappointing that after more than eight years of consultation, and when the majority of egg producers need certainty, some sections of the cage egg industry have resorted to this misguided attempt to distract, delay or divert much-needed progress on these animal welfare standards,” said Mr Mussell.
“This includes some truly ridiculous claims, like the claim that the phase out date is ‘rapid’ and has somehow been ‘brought forward’.
“This is blatantly untrue – the phase out deadline has always been 2036 (as you can see from the draft standards published almost a year ago). 2046 was the date being proposed by the cage egg industry – a whopping 23 years from now and an unacceptably long timeframe.
“There’s also the severely misleading claim that a phase out of battery cages will mean that all producers will need to switch to free-range systems.
“We know – and the egg industry knows – that battery cage producers can convert to a range of alternative systems, including barn-laid (indoor) systems*. Well-managed barn systems provide a significant improvement for hen welfare over barren battery cages, where each hen has space that’s less than the size of a piece of A4 paper.
“Finally, to try and scaremonger the community about egg shortages and price rises, during the current cost of living crisis, is reprehensible.
“To try and pin this on a phase out of battery cages that’s not due to fully take effect for another 13 years – or, on supermarket commitments that were made, in some cases, as long as ten years ago - is misleading, bizarre, and extremely insensitive fearmongering toward Australian families currently struggling with the cost of living.
“We urge parliamentarians to carefully fact check any claims they’re presented with, and to ensure animal welfare policies and positions are based on facts and science, not scaremongering. State and territory agriculture ministers have the chance to do the right thing tomorrow by committing to phase out battery cages, not just for the millions of layer hens suffering in barren battery cages, but also to enhance Australia’s international reputation by improving animal welfare standards.
“From our point of view, and from the point of view of the nearly 8 in 10 Australians** who want to see battery cages gone, the legislation to complete this phase out can’t come soon enough.”
*According to 2020-21 ABS data, 32% of layer hens in Australia are in cage systems, 19% in barn (indoor) systems, and 49% in free-range systems.
**According to 2021 polling by Kantar, 77% of Australians agree that battery cages should be phased out.