Why we’re worried about Australia’s dangerously flawed poultry welfare standards

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You may have noticed some media lately about the review of Australia’s national poultry standards and our concerns about the process.

Development of such Standards and Guidelines is a complex and fairly bureaucratic process. So you might ask why we’re so concerned about it, or why you should care.

These standards will govern the way all poultry species in Australia are treated – that’s over 700 million birds every year, for at least the next decade or more. Chickens used for meat and eggs, turkeys, ducks, emus, ostriches, even your humble racing pigeon will be covered by these standards.

This is the first time in more than 15 years that these national minimum welfare standards are being reviewed, and this same process will soon be used to determine the welfare standards for pigs, sheep and cattle.

This is a very rare opportunity to improve the lives of millions of animals. That’s why we need to make sure the process is done right, and leads to tangible improvements in animal welfare - not just what supports the status quo.

Unfortunately, this is not happening.

We have been involved in the review process from the beginning, and have repeatedly requested that the responsible government representatives and Animal Health Australia (the body responsible for managing the process) to commission an independent scientific review to inform the standards.

Countries including Canada, New Zealand, and the whole European Union (including the UK) commission independent scientific reviews to inform the development of animal welfare standards as a routine practice. This has led to a phase out of battery cages in these countries.

In Australia, significant decisions are being made which have enormous impacts on the lives of millions of animals, with no such information. You have to wonder - why not?

Instead, a small standards drafting group has produced a series of ‘supporting papers’ which purport to summarise the relevant science. In reality, these papers appear to be little more than a mechanism to defend pre-determined policy positions, including making no changes to the ongoing use of barren battery cages.

This is despite over a decade of significant poultry welfare research since the standards were last reviewed.

We got so frustrated with this blatant deficiency that we produced a comprehensive scientific review.

And we’re not the only ones to speak out. Prominent animal welfare scientists have heavily criticised the content of the supporting papers, calling them ‘selective’ and ‘misleading’.

The scientific integrity of the entire process is objectively in question, and Australia’s animal welfare standards are being set by a dangerously flawed process.

We know the only way that more than 11 million hens currently confined to battery cages will receive a fair go, is if caring Australians speak out for them.

There’s still time, and Australia has the potential to have an exemplary standards-setting process. You can write to your state/territory Agricultural Minister to demand that welfare standards for Australian animals be based in science and evidence.

Also let your voice be heard in our campaign to ban the battery cage here. We’ll make sure politicians around the country get the message.

For the hens!