Australia is phasing out eggs from battery-raised chickens
Australian battery-raised eggs will be a thing of the past by 2036 due to stricter animal welfare laws, it has been confirmed.
The announcement comes after an extensive campaign by pet welfare groups aimed directly at the egg industry.
In the current Australian battery cage system, birds can be housed with up to nine other birds. In these cases, each has less than an A4 sheet of paper space to move around, with just enough height to stand on.
The industry has now agreed to follow in the footsteps of China, Europe and New Zealand in scrapping battery processes.
The news was heralded by the publication of the newly finalized Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Poultry. The policy specifically refers to improvements that need to be made in the poultry sector. These include phasing out battery-reared eggs and improving general conditions for the animals.
The guidelines are the product of seven years of negotiations between government officials and the poultry industry.
Will chicken welfare improve?
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the domestic poultry flock increased by 10% last year to around 135 million birds. This was in response to a higher demand for chicken meat and eggs.
In June 2021, the country was home to 17 million laying hens, including 5.36 million in cages.
Egg farmers are now legally required to change their laying processes, and they have up to 14 years to do so. How long they take will depend on the size and age of their current facilities.
By 2036, all egg professionals must comply with minimum space regulations, which require 750 square centimeters of “usable space” per bird. This applies to those kept in a cage with two or more other hens. When alone in the cage, the birds should have one square meter of space.
One square meter is considered the absolute minimum a hen should receive, with two square meters being preferable. Experts recommend giving hens as much space as possible to avoid intimidation and serious injury from animals.
The egg industry in turmoil
Industry advocacy group Egg Farmers of Australia responded to the new reform, saying it was unhappy with the phase-out schedule.
Members would be disappointed not to have the option of continuing to produce battery-farmed eggs for at least 24 years, as a statement from the group outlines.
“Unfortunately, the review completely ignored the evidence as to why conventional cages should continue until 2046,” said group CEO Melinda Hashimoto.
She continued: “The document indicates that conventional cage farming must end with a suggested timetable as early as 2031 and no later than 2036. This is 10 years too soon and could drive many family egg farmers to the wall. .”
A “significant victory for animal welfare”
However, RSPCA Australia chief executive Rochard Mussell celebrated the reform and called it a victory for animal welfare in the country.
“But more importantly, it will ultimately be a victory for the millions of laying hens confined to battery cages,” he said in a statement.
“These poultry standards and guidelines have been under review for nearly seven years. Phasing out is the right outcome, and it should have been in place six years ago. Millions more laying hens have had to endure sterile battery cages as a result of these delays.
The Humane Society of Australia, Animals Australia and the Australian Alliance for Animals also celebrated the reform, but they criticized the disposal schedule.