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Australia’s leading animal welfare organisation has firmly distanced itself from draft new national Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Poultry, saying they are inadequate and not based on science or evidence.

RSPCA Australia CEO Heather Neil said the organisation had been vocal in its criticism of the Standard and Guidelines process for some time, but was still shocked and outraged by the quality of the resulting draft, which will be released to the public today.

“To put it bluntly, we’re gutted. These standards are an embarrassment and the community should respond to them as such,” said Ms Neil.

“The RSPCA is recognised nationally – and indeed, internationally - as Australia’s leading authority on animal welfare, and that reputation is built upon our commitment to well-informed, evidence-based policies and positions,

“These Standards are not based on science, are not sustainable, and will not improve farm animal welfare in line with community expectations,

“Nowhere is this more apparent than in the fact that these Standards will not commence a phase-out of cruel battery cages for layer hens, despite overwhelming scientific evidence and growing international condemnation of this production system,

“Instead, they propose to condemn over 100 million inquisitive, social, and intelligent layer hens to lives of abject misery inside barren battery cages for the next decade or more,

“This is morally and scientifically indefensible,

“This approach goes against everything we stand for, and indeed, everything that caring Australians stand for – as confirmed by recent research showing 84% of Australians want to end the battery cage,

“New Zealand, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the entire European Union have decided that battery cages must go, why is Australia falling behind?,

“We want to be very clear that the RSPCA cannot support these standards, and will be encouraging our many supporters to vocally oppose them as well,” said Ms Neil.

“State and territory governments will soon have to decide whether they want to continue endorsing a cruel and outdated system or whether they will be part of the future of humane and sustainable agriculture,

“Now is the time for Agriculture Ministers to step up and show leadership,” said Ms Neil.

Once finalised, the Standards will govern the way approximately 700 million layer hens, meat chickens, turkeys, and ducks are treated in Australia’s commercial poultry industries each year, for at least the next decade or more.

Join the movement to end the battery cage at https://www.rspca.org.au/layer-hen-welfare.

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