Call to phase-out battery cages angers egg farmers

WA egg farmers say phasing out battery cages in WA could lead to eggs flooding in to WA from the eastern states.

THE McGowan Government has called for a 10-year phase-out of conventional cages for egg-laying hens, a move WA egg farmers say will ruin their industry.

The McGowan Government’s submission also recommends a reduction in stocking densities for broiler chickens to 38km a square metre and linking stocking density to performance on welfare.

The submission also recommends new minimum standards to ensure any new cages are enriched or furnished.

Egg Farmers of Australia chief executive officer John Dunn said the association was disappointed with the WA government’s intention to phase out cage eggs.

Mr Dunn said a phase-out of cages would cripple WA egg farmers and lead to eggs flooding in from the eastern states.

He said WA egg farmers supported continuous improvement in animal welfare and mandatory standards and guidelines.

Egg farmers would continue their work to show the community how they farmed and why they farmed that way.

Ms MacTiernan said the government’s recommendations were based on a WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development review of scientific literature on the welfare of laying hens kept in cages, and stocking densities for meat chickens.

She said the review concluded poultry welfare outcomes could be improved by using housing systems other than conventional cages, and by reducing stocking densities.

“The findings were peer reviewed by Murdoch University’s School of Veterinary and Life Sciences,’’ she said.

Ms MacTiernan said she had also consulted extensively with industry and animal welfare groups since the release of the draft standards, including visits to farms with conventional cages, furnished cages, and barn and free range hens.

The McGowan Government was committed to animal welfare standards reflecting modern scientific views and there was clear research to indicate that battery cages should be phased out.

“Community expectations around animal welfare are developing and industry needs to stay ahead of the game.’’

Public consultation on the draft Australian animal welfare standards and guidelines for poultry has now closed.

“More than 165,000 submissions were received by Animal Health Australia during this process, which clearly tells us the public cares about animal welfare.

“We are calling on other state and territory governments to look at the scientific literature and overwhelming public opinion on poultry welfare, and to back improvements to the draft national standards.”