Animal Liberation ACT has been campaigning for many years to have the use of battery cages banned in the ACT. We were involved when the Greens first tabled a ban in 1996. That Bill was passed but was made contingent on a second Bill which attempted to ban the sale of cage eggs. That second Bill ran foul of Commonwealth legislation so neither ban has been implemented.
Free Range Canberra is our latest campaign. It commenced over three years ago and in May resulted in the Greens tabling another Bill to ban the cages. This time there is no attempt to ban the sale of cage eggs.
If you feel that the use of battery cages to produce eggs is cruel, and according to our latest survey over 80% of Canberrans do, then now is the time to contact your local member and the Chief Minister (who as Minister for the Environment also has responsibility for animal welfare) to let them know you’d like them to support the Bill.
If you’re not yet convinced, please consider the following.
There is almost universal agreement amongst animal welfare experts that the battery cage system is clearly the most inhumane system of egg production.
The RSPCA web pages quote a recent detailed report from the LayWel project. This European project involves the collaboration of all the major layer hen welfare researchers in the EU. It says, “Conventional cages do not allow hens to fulfil behaviour priorities, preferences and needs for nesting, perching, foraging and dustbathing in particular. We believe these disadvantages outweigh the advantages of reduced parasitism, good hygiene and simpler management. The advantages can be matched by other systems that also enable a much fuller expression of normal behaviour.”
[In Europe, there are enriched cages providing some extras such as perches and scratching area as well as extra space; hence the reference to “Conventional cages”. No enriched cages are in production in Australia.]
The cages in this country are all “conventional” regardless of whether each bird has 450 square cm (the current Australian standard) or 550 square cm (the new standard from 1 January 2008). In fact, the new standard will allow each bird approximately 1cm more all around and still mean that she will spend her entire adult life standing on wire with something less than the size of an A4 page. There will be no significant improvement in welfare with the new cages.
Should battery cages be banned in the ACT there is no requirement for Pace Farm to leave the Territory. They could, instead, convert to either a free range or barn facility. Pace already operate several such facilities around the country. As we understand it, there are about 30 people employed at Parkwood. By their nature, barn or free range operations generally require more employees than cage operations.
In late 1995 we commissioned a survey to determine the attitudes of Canberrans to battery cages. A large majority of respondents (84.6%) felt that it is cruel to keep hens in battery cages and nearly three quarters (73.0%) felt that keeping hens in battery cages should be banned .
The ACT Labor Party’s policy is to “Ensure that animals are not treated inhumanely in domestic and commercial use .” Also, in a media release in 2005, Acting Minister for the Environment, Katy Gallagher, stated that “Cruelty to animals of any sort is an abhorrent act that cannot be tolerated in our community.” We believe that there is irrefutable scientific evidence, and overwhelming community agreement, that battery cages are inhumane.
If you have ever observed backyard chickens, or kept some yourself, you must realise the hideous cruelty of battery cages and the travesty of normal bird life that they represent. Before he became Pope, Cardinal Ratzinger was asked about cruelty to animals. He replied, “That is a very serious question. At any rate, we can see that they are given into our care, that we cannot just do whatever we want with them. Animals, too, are God’s creatures… Certainly, a sort of industrial use of creatures, so that geese are fed in such a way as to produce as large a liver as possible, or hens live so packed together that they become just caricatures of birds, this degrading of living creatures to a commodity seems to me in fact to contradict the relationship of mutuality that comes across in the Bible.”
Please tell the Government that you want them to support the Animal Welfare Amendment Bill 2007 when the matter comes before the Assembly for debate. The passing of this Bill would enshrine into law the recognition that cruelty to animals in the name of cheap eggs is no more acceptable to at least one self-governing community than any other form of cruelty to animals.
Coordinator, Free Range Canberra