Australians and consumers are at risk of being misled by weak and inadequate standards that are easily debunked by science and do not reflect community expectations.
That’s the strong warning from the RSPCA this week, as its long-standing opposition to battery cages in egg farming is further validated by the publication of its own scientific review in a world-leading peer-reviewed poultry science journal.
RSPCA Australia Scientific Officer Dr Kate Hartcher’s review, The welfare of layer hens in cage and cage-free systems, is currently the ‘most read’ article on the World’s Poultry Science Journal site.
Dr Hartcher said the review reflects the overwhelming scientific evidence that battery cages cause suffering and are not acceptable in modern Australian farming.
“Once again, we’re seeing conclusive evidence that battery cages are inherently cruel and unnecessary, which is why they’re condemned by the majority of the community and illegal in many countries around the world,” she said.
“Draft Standards and Guidelines for poultry welfare are due to be released for public consultation imminently, and we’re very concerned these don’t reflect the scientific evidence available,
“Nowhere is this more evident than in the failure of these Standards to include an end to the use of battery cages in Australia,
“Time and again, independent science shows that battery cages are bad for welfare – yet governments refuse to take action to address this critical animal welfare issue,
“Right now, we have an important and rare opportunity, the first time in 15 years, to review poultry welfare standards and ensure they are well-informed by science, reflect community expectations, and lead to meaningful improvements in welfare,” said Dr Hartcher.
“It’s incredibly disappointing and frustrating that this isn’t the case,
Dr Hartcher said the new Standards will be meaningless if they aren’t updated to reflect the science.
“What is the point of animal welfare standards that don’t improve animal welfare? What is the point of standards at all, if they aren’t based on evidence and the expectations of the community?,” she said.
“Ignoring and dismissing the science because it doesn’t support the status quo will lead Australian farming down a very dangerous path,
“Fortunately, it’s not too late, and the RSPCA will be urging state governments to act upon this evidence and support a phase-out of battery cages in the draft standards,” said Dr Hartcher.
To find out more about the welfare problems of battery cages, visit www.endthebatterycage.org.au.