Plan to phase out cage eggs … in 15 years
The Independent Panel on Poultry Welfare’s draft recommendations to phase out battery cages for layer hens in Australia has been welcomed by most as a positive step. However, animal welfare groups say the planned timeframe is too long. Once finalised, the panel’s recommendations will be presented to state and territory agriculture ministers. If agreed to, it will finally see cage eggs phased out in Australia. But not until 2036.
“We’re pleased to see the independent panel has acted on the science,” says RSPCA Australia CEO Richard Mussell. “The overwhelming scientific evidence base shows that it is impossible to meet the welfare needs of hens in these small, barren wire cages.
“We do, however, want to see the transition period considerably shortened. We understand transitions take time. But every year it takes is another year that millions of smart, curious, social hens are confined to cages with less than an A4 sheet of paper in floor space.”
Time for action
The draft recommendations were only made public after Australian Greens animal welfare spokesperson Senator Mehreen Faruqi forced the government to release the details.
“This process has been going on in some form or another since 2013,” she says. “So there has been plenty of time for the industry to change their practices. It’s time for action.”
In 2018, a report prepared for the federal government entitled “Australia’s Shifting Mindset on Farm Animal Welfare” found that 95 percent of Australians are concerned about the treatment of farm animals. Further, 91 percent want some kind of law reform to address it.
“The community has said loud and clear that they want to see a phase-out of battery cages,” Mussell says. “More than 167,000 people made submissions to the public consultation process for this review. The vast majority oppose the use of battery cages.”
Too soon or too late?
Animal welfare organisations and the general public want to see battery cages phased out of Australian egg production much sooner. Many supermarkets, retailers and food manufacturers have already made the switch to cage-free eggs. However, the egg industry is asking for an even longer phase-out period, extending until 2046.
Even with the current draft recommendations, Australia lags behind the rest of the world. More than 75 percent of OECD countries have already acted to transition away from cage eggs. Just last month, the European Parliament called for the end of caged farming, with members voting overwhelmingly on a ban of cages in animal agriculture by 2027.
“Countries around the world have already phased out cage eggs or have a plan to do so,” Senator Faruqi says. “Including most OECD countries. Industry does not need up to 15 years to transition away from battery cages. It can and it should happen faster.”