Unscrambling the facts of Australian egg farming

Voiceless, the animal protection institute, last month launched its latest in-depth report, ‘Unscrambled: The hidden truth of hen welfare in the Australian egg industry’, in an effort to bring much-needed attention to the welfare of millions of hens and their chicks in Australia.

The product of two years of extensive research and legal review, Unscrambled assesses the key animal protection issues associated with the use of battery cages, barn-laid and free range systems from an animal welfare and scientific perspective.

The report, which has been reviewed by seven leading animal welfare and law experts, and endorsed by major animal protection organisations including Animals Australia, explores the current status of hen welfare in Australia and how we compare globally.

“The stark reality is, Australia has fallen behind other nations when it comes to layer hen welfare, so the time has come for us to evolve to better standards,” said Voiceless spokesperson Elise Burgess.

Alarmingly, there are approximately 11 million hens confined in battery cage systems across Australia, who are permanently locked in a cage with less allowable space than that of an A4 page.

Meanwhile battery cages have been banned, or are being phased out, in a number of global markets due to the severe welfare issues inherent in their use, including most member states of the EU, New Zealand and Switzerland.

Unscrambled comes at a time when there is real opportunity for significant advancement of animal welfare in the Australian egg industry, specifically ending the use of battery cages.

“While policy change is necessary in 2017, real change relies on co-operation between producers, advocates, consumers and government, to not simply accept the status quo but have the courage to recognise that change is urgently needed,” Burgess said.

“This report provides a greater insight into hen suffering, and will hopefully promote a wide-ranging and informed public debate about what sort of egg industry the people of Australia want and how we can achieve it.”

For more on cage eggs, see our feature Caged in from the August 2016 issue of Vet Practice magazine, and our news story The science is in: battery cages are out.

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