Cage Egg Ban

(Private Members Statement, 15 May 2018, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament) 

The Sydney Electorate has many strong advocates for animals. Like many other members of this house I have been contacted by a large number of constituents asking me to support a ban on cage eggs.

I strongly oppose factory farming, including battery egg production.

Cage egg production is incredibly cruel. Layer hens are crammed in cages so small they can’t stretch their wings or perform natural instincts like scratching the ground, perching, dust bathing, roosting, socialising, rearing their young or nesting. They never go outside, exercise, breathe fresh air or see sunlight. Artificial light is used to increase their production of eggs. They experience intense ongoing mental and physical suffering for their entire life.

We have an opportunity to put an end to this cruel and unnecessary form of farming with the code that sets the standards for how commercially farmed chickens are treated – the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Poultry – under review for the first time in 15 years.

Over 150,000 people lodged submissions calling for the new standards to ban battery hen cages, reflecting the growing community view that factory farming is inhumane and unacceptable.

But there is community concern that industry will trump the process to maintain the status quo.

The New South Wales Department of Primary Industries is running the national review, which is being funded by industry. A number of accusations have been raised that the department is working too closely with industry in support of its position to keep battery cage farming. New South Wales is the largest producer of caged eggs in the country and it has been argued that the department has an interest in protecting this cruel farming practice.

The process did not include an independent review of the scientific literature on hen welfare and instead relied heavily on industry papers. Supporting documentation for the review included claims that extra cage space doesn’t guarantee better welfare and that battery cages allow for better inspection, and reduce biosecurity risks and environmental impacts. There was no acknowledgement of the mental suffering battery hens experience from not being able to act out their natural behaviours.

Recommendations put forward did not include a ban although the department has said that this will be considered.

Governments of Western Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria have raised concerns about the process and Victoria is doing its own review of the literature.

Consultation has closed and final recommendations will soon be put to Australian agricultural ministers.

I hope that the accusations are unfounded and that the review, under the lead of this government, will put an end to the cruel era of battery cage farming.

Other jurisdictions are taking the lead.

Battery hen farming is banned in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland.

New Zealand will phase out battery hen eggs by 2022 and Canada will by 2032. In the United States, Ohio has imposed a moratorium on battery hen farming and battery hen cages are illegal in Michigan. 

In the United States Walmart and McDonald’s have committed to phasing out the use of cage eggs and this move will see a significant increase in the welfare of layer hens in that country.

Businesses here are making similar moves. Coles commenced a phase-out in 2013 and Woolworths and Aldi committed to banning the sale of all caged eggs by 2025.

This represents a growing consumer trend towards free range and organic farming.

The standards review is looking at all forms of poultry farming, not just battery egg farming. Farming standards for broiler chickens, turkeys and ducks are also under review and these animals endure appalling suffering under existing standards that don’t let them act out their natural behaviours.

They are crammed into dirty, dark and poorly ventilated sheds covered in faeces. They are pumped with antibiotics to ward off disease and infection – a problem that is also contributing to antibiotic resistance and superbugs. Selective breeding to speed up growth means some birds can’t hold their weight let alone walk to feed or hydrate themselves. Ducks are not given a body of water even though they naturally need to spend time in water.

I hope that the review takes a humane approach and results in Australia stamping out all cruel poultry factory farming.

Factory farming is sanctioned animal torture in the name of profit. Live sentient beings should not be subject to such extensive and intense misery.

With such a groundswell in community support for a ban on the battery cage eggs; leadership of the major supermarket chains; and the nation-wide process that involves governments from both major parties, there is an opportunity to ban the battery hen cage with minimal political consequence.

I call on the government to ban caged egg farming as well as other cruel poultry farming and make the state’s agricultural industry more humane.