A communique released following the Agriculture Ministers Forum (AGMIN) last week has confirmed that further delays in finalising the nation’s animal welfare standards for poultry can be expected as the process enters its fifth year.
Following several years of stakeholder and writing group meetings, and a three month public consultation period, state, territory, and federal agriculture ministers decided last week to establish a new ‘independent panel to supervise drafting of new Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Poultry’.
RSPCA Australia Acting CEO Dr Bidda Jones has expressed deep frustration with the latest development anticipating further uncertainty and delay in finalising the national standards, which will govern the welfare of over 700 million animals a year in 12 different poultry industries including meat chickens, layer hens, ducks, turkeys, geese, emus, ostriches and other species.
“Public consultation on the draft standards closed in February 2018 after receiving an unprecedented 167,000 submissions calling for an end to the use of barren battery cages for egg laying hens, yet there has been no formal update given to the public since that time.
“The community are understandably becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress and are calling for more decisive action from state and territory governments.
“The science is clear, the community sentiment is clear, the food businesses are clear – battery cages are cruel and have no place in 21st century Australia.
“Over 75% of OECD nations have already committed to transitioning their egg industries away from using battery cages toward more humane, sustainable systems that have proven to contribute to higher levels of revenue growth and jobs for the sector.
“Australia’s egg industry has, to date, steadfastly refused to negotiate on a staged transition away from battery cages despite the overwhelming scientific evidence and tide of public opinion moving against them.
“This has caused unreasonable delays in the process for all industry, government, and animal welfare stakeholders.
“It is time for state and territory governments to show leadership on this issue. It is an issue that is not going away – a feasible transition plan must now be developed.
“While the RSPCA is disappointed at the introduction of yet another step in the decision-making process, we look forward to working with the new independent panel on ensuring future decisions are evidence-based and in line with mainstream community values and expectations,” Dr Jones said.