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It’s Time to Revisit the Battery Cage Ban

By mos - 8 August 2008 54

In September last year, as a result of a concerted campaign by Free Range Canberra supported by the Human Battery Cage project and the tabling of a Bill to ban battery cages in the ACT by Greens MLA Dr Deb Foskey, the ACT Government announced three measures “designed to phase out battery egg production in the ACT and change the egg-buying patterns of Canberrans”. The measures were;

  • an offer of $1 million in industry assistance to help Pace Farm change from battery farming to the barn method of egg production,
  • a pledge to source the eggs purchased by ACT government institutions such as hospitals and schools from barn or free-range producers,
  • an undertaking to write to your fellow Agriculture Ministers and heads of government ‘as a matter of urgency’ to get a national approach to phasing out battery farming onto the agenda for the next Ministerial Council and the next gathering of the Council of Australian Governments.

On the positive side, the change in the government’s purchasing policy for eggs is underway and is expected to be complete by May 2009.

But as for the other two measures, negotiations with Pace Farm have failed and Jon Stanhope has admitted that he has failed in establishing a national approach to a ban.

A ban on battery cages has the strong support of the ACT community. A local survey commissioned in September 2005 found 73% of respondents supported banning the cages. A WIN TV News poll last year resulted in an overwhelming 94% support for a ban.

The ACT’s only cage egg producer Pace Farm has shown that it is not committed to the long-term survival of its Parkwood facility. In response to the changes to regulations which came into effect on 1 January this year requiring caged hens to be given slightly more space (an extra centimetre in each direction), Pace have simply lowered their stocking rates rather than spend money to replace their old, filthy cages.

According to their Emission Report on the National Pollutant Inventory website, Pace Farm employs 14 people at Parkwood. Their annual rent for the 41.44 hectares on which their operation is located is a mere $486.

Pace Farm is clearly not an important industry in the ACT – but it is certainly a cruel industry. The Parkwood sheds were recently depopulated – i.e., the hundreds of thousands of hens who have spent the last 15 or so months in the cages were hauled out and passed hand-to-hand by their legs before being crammed into crates and transported for hundreds of kilometres in open trucks to be slaughtered.

The handling of the hens resulted in most of them suffering broken legs even before getting to the crates and, as has happened on previous occasions, hundreds were dropped or escaped from the cages and fell into the manure pits below the cages. Many of these hens drowned in the liquefied waste while others became bogged and were left to starve. The industry Code of Practice demands that such hens be retrieved on the same day – they were not.

There is a world-wide move away from inhumane battery cages. An EU-wide ban on the use of conventional battery cages for egg laying hens will be applied from 1 January 2012. The US state of California will vote in November this year on a proposal to ban the cages.

Over 150 US University campuses – including Harvard, Princeton and Tufts – have made the decision not to support the cruelty of battery hen farming while in this country, the University of Newcastle has decided to have all food outlets use cage-free eggs.

Three Tasmanian local councils (Hobart, Clarence and Launceston) have recently announced that they will only use eggs from free range farms at council functions.

Consumers and retailers are also moving away from cage eggs and embracing eggs from the more humane free-range system. In the UK, the sale of free-range eggs has risen by almost a third since the end of last year and in February more households were buying free-range eggs rather than caged eggs for the first time.

The Australian Egg Corporation Annual Reports show that the market share of free-range eggs in Australia rose from 20.3% to 23.4% in the 12 months to June 2007 while the sale of cage eggs dropped from 74.9% to 71.4% in the same period.

The world-wide move away from cage eggs is clear and irresistible.

When the three Government measures were announced Chief Minister Jon Stanhope stated that “if the offer of industry assistance was not accepted after negotiation with Pace and if advocacy at the national level proved fruitless the Government was prepared to revisit the issue of battery egg production in the future”.

Now is clearly the time to revisit the issue of a ban.

What’s Your opinion?

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54 Responses to
It’s Time to Revisit the Battery Cage Ban
Someone_else 12:07 am 09 Aug 08

Claiming that you can’t “afford” to buy free-range is such a cop-out. Just be honest admit you don’t care. I’m sure a lot of the people who whinge that free-range is too expensive have no problems finding the extra cash for ciggies, alcohol and new TVs.

johnboy 10:49 pm 08 Aug 08

Not everyone can keep their own chickens, the rules can be tough.

josh 10:44 pm 08 Aug 08

and uh. i’m not all for paying extra money for the piece of mind that ‘aw these chickens were raised “humanely”‘. i’m all for paying for a simply superior egg.

(i think we dish out $7 or $8/doz at the farmer’s markets for some ridiculously fresh and tasty eggs. they’re not organic, but they’re certainly free range. whoop-de-doo. they taste really good, though..the yolks sit so high and the shells are way hard. om nom nom)

josh 10:41 pm 08 Aug 08

grow yer own chickens!

and get a goat, too, and throw yer lawnmower away! decrease your oil dependence, and reap the rewards. rite gize? etc

ant 10:15 pm 08 Aug 08

I’ll make sure I never buy any eggs from Pace. I buy free range or barn raised, and stories like this make my blood boil. I hope the TV show Jamie Oliver did showing what really happens to chickens gets aired again, a real eye opener for many people.

People who do this to animals are evil.

Jonathon Reynolds 9:44 pm 08 Aug 08


johnboy said :

Surely minimum standards are no bad thing?

First you need to set an agreed national standard, then you ensure compliance.

“mos” wants to put the cart before the horse (or count their chickens before they’ve hatched)… which invariably means that some time down the track (s)he will be back complaining that someone, somewhere doesn’t meet their idea of what (s)he thinks the standard ought to be.

Mælinar - *spoiler 9:17 pm 08 Aug 08

If everybody bought a chicken each to run around in their back yards, there would be an immediate drop in consumption that would probably be felt like an earthquake on the stock market.

johnboy 8:43 pm 08 Aug 08

Surely minimum standards are no bad thing?

sepi 8:40 pm 08 Aug 08

there’s a big difference between a small shady place that free chooks choose to hang out, and a cage the size of an A4 sheet of paper, where the poor chook cant’ even stand up or turn around, and has to have it’s claws cut off.

jake555 8:32 pm 08 Aug 08

I am personally prepared to pay a bit more per egg to know that they didn’t originate in a battery cage.

Surely if consumers push for cage free eggs, producers would be forced to change their production methods, thereby becoming the ‘norm’, and hopefully a comparable price to the current cage eggs?

VicePope 8:23 pm 08 Aug 08

I might be a heretic, but I grew up in close proximity to many chooks. They had heaps of space, varied food, lots of places to go. But the idiot animals mostly chose to cluster in a low, crowded area that was there by accident, and kept because it provided some additional shade (as well as henhouse and a tree). They wouldn’t have known or cared if they were provided with food on silver trays carried by liveried waiters, or if they were crammed into a box and had muck jammed down their throats. Chooks aren’t very bright.

I’m a little sceptical about the campaign, which will mostly have the effect of depriving relatively poor people of a cheap source of protein. The main reason for buying free range eggs when possible is that they can taste a bit better.

sepi 8:18 pm 08 Aug 08

I was worried about the 1million dollar offer. I thought it might another koomarri debacle, where the govt would pony up the funds, and then PACE would open a tiny barn, or move across the border or something. It’s interesting they weren’t interested in taking up the offer at all though.

I don’t believe Cage eggs are half the price of battery eggs. And I’m surprised that less than a quarter of people buy free range.

Free range all the way in this household.

Duke 7:21 pm 08 Aug 08

Well said JR. I like the idea of free-range but it also means very expensive eggs – almost double the price of regular cage eggs. As eggs are a staple in most homes, cost remains a major issue in this debate.

I won’t agree with Thumper on this one as I eat a lot of poultry (and eggs!).

Jonathon Reynolds 6:51 pm 08 Aug 08

So which standard for “free range” are you proposing we adopt?

I’m not prepared to pay a premium for eggs (and chicken) just so that people can feel good and sleep soundly at night. Commercial farming is never pleasant but its legal, a reality and a fact of life.

Whilst I agree that the battery hen method may not be the most humane method of egg farming it remains legal and it speaks volumes that the RSPCA (who are vested with the powers of ensuring animal protection in the Territory) have not moved to shut the ACT operations on the basis of animal cruelty.

If the “free range” advocacy group were serious about the issue we wouldn’t have the case of Free Range Canberra Party (“Free Range Canberra is a campaign that aims to effectively ban the production of battery eggs in the ACT“) not running candidates at the upcoming election.

Thumper 6:46 pm 08 Aug 08

I expect nothing but a full ban on battery hens and 100% free range.

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