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Delays to poultry animal welfare standards

By Country News

Further delays have been confirmed in finalising Australia's animal welfare standards for poultry, following the Agriculture Ministers’ Forum two weeks ago.

RSPCA Australia chief executive officer Bidda Jones expressed frustration with the delay.

“The community are understandably becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress and are calling for more decisive action from state and territory governments,” she said.

After three months of public consultation from November 2017 to February 2018, state, territory, and federal agriculture ministers decided to establish a new independent panel to supervise the drafting of new Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Poultry.

The new standards will govern the welfare of more than 700 million animals 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 and received 167 000 submissions calling for an end to the use of barren battery cages for egg-laying hens.

Ms Jones said no formal update had been given to the public since that time.

“The science is clear, the community sentiment is clear, food businesses are clear — battery cages are cruel and have no place in 21st century Australia.

“Over 75 per cent 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.”

Ms Jones said although the RSPCA was disappointed with the delay, they looked forward to working with the independent panel.