THE poultry welfare debate continues this week as local industry and the community prepare to comment on the future of battery caged hens.
There are just over two weeks left to have your say on welfare conditions for egg laying and meat producing chickens and other poultry in Australia.
The RSPCA WA and Midland Junction Poultry Society had their chance to weigh in on the debate during a state government round table meeting held last month to discuss new Australian poultry welfare guidelines.
Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan said chicken meat producers showed willingness to improve barn density standards but stalled on improving conditions for cage chickens.
“Egg producers are yet to reach a position that would see them moving towards improved conditions for caged chickens,” she said after the January 23 meeting.
“The European Union phased out battery cages more than five years ago without any major detriment to industry – and New Zealand started the process in 2012.
“Industry must show it is willing to listen to community concerns and clear science about caged chickens and stocking densities and work with government to find a path forward.”
RSPCA WA president Lynne Bradshaw said the animal society echoed the ministers sentiments.
“A possible phase-out of battery cages and a reduction in stocking density for meat chickens were discussed in detail,” she said.
“We found the minister to be well-informed on issues concerning the use of battery cages for egg-laying hens and stocking densities for meat chickens, and forthright in her disappointment with the deficiencies in the current draft standards.”
Midland Junction Poultry Society president Graham McLevie said, as poultry exhibitionists, they played a minor role in the wider issue but wanted to take on a more prominent position in further decision making.
“As with any organisation, some members are opposed to the changes but they are realistic enough to realise times have changed and we have to keep up with modern expectation in regards to animal welfare,” he said.
“We’ve been listened to, there’s no question about that and we’ve welcomed the opportunity.
“We will be sending a submission on proposed changes to animal welfare poultry.”
The Department of Agriculture and Food said members had received almost 5000 emails from the public supporting improved welfare measures.
Public consultation for the draft Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Poultry is open until Monday, February 26.
To view the guidelines or for more information visit www.animalwelfarestandards.net.au
By Claire Ottaviano