Livestock Welfare Matters
Livestock Welfare Matters is a quarterly e-newsletter from RSPCA WA directly to people in agriculture in Western Australia.
The farming community in WA are important stakeholders for us. At a time when interest in and awareness of animal welfare is increasing among the general public, it is imperative to improve communication between RSPCA WA and livestock producers.
Through Livestock Welfare Matters we plan to reach you directly with information on a wide range of animal welfare topics.
To sign up for the Livestock Welfare Matters Newsletter, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
On 5 March, 2018, the WA Government recommended a ten-year phase out of battery cages for layer hens, announcing that furnished cages should become the minimum housing standard in future.
While furnished cages, containing perches and litter, cannot offer a complete solution in terms of hen welfare, this is a big step in the right direction.
Most importantly, it is based on modern animal welfare science which shows layer hens kept in battery cages suffer every day.
The Minister for Agriculture Alannah MacTiernan ordered a WA review of the science on the welfare of egg laying hens housed in battery cages and stocking densities for raising meat chickens. The review was conducted by the WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development and peer reviewed by Murdoch University. The result was clear – battery cages should go, a conclusion that matches public opinion.
The WA Government’s recommendations were made in a submission to the draft Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Poultry.
Summer Edition - March 2018
In this issue, you will find articles on pest animal management, some FAQs on RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme and other topics in which we hope you are interested.
One of the hottest topics in WA agribusiness right now is the public debate about the review of the National Standards for the Welfare of Poultry. This review was being managed nationally by the NSW Department of Primary Industries but, in December, the process was discredited amid claims that the department facilitated secret meetings with industry which excluded animal welfare groups.
The story broke just before Christmas on ABC TV and online.
The draft standards which were open for public comment until the end of February maintained the status quo by including battery cages as allowable housing systems for layer hens, despite increasing public opposition to them. And, they are illegal in most developed countries.
Tens of thousands of Australians, a record for this type of public consultation, made submissions to the review calling for battery cages to be phased out and the WA Government dissented from the draft standards. WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan said in November the new Standards must meet modern community expectations and be backed by animal welfare science.
In January, in my opinion piece published in The West Australian newspaper, I expressed hope that egg producers in WA will recognise that good bird welfare is good for their business and work with the Minister to phase out battery cages in WA. The writing is on the wall anyway with consumer data showing 86.5% of West Australians think battery cages shouldn’t exist and 80% saying battery cages impact on their egg purchasing decisions. Most producers with whom I speak say their hens are either in barns or free range already due to consumer demand.
The Minister is currently consulting with WA producers about the best way forward. I believe the Minister will act to phase out battery cages in WA if they remain part of the new Standards after this review. On 23 January I represented RSPCA WA at a roundtable discussion at which the Minister made it clear she wanted to see improvements to conditions for caged hens.
However, I remain hopeful that leading WA producers will continue to move away from cage egg production and that a phase out of battery cages will simply be in line with their long-term business strategy.
Lynne Bradshaw AM
President, RSPCA WA
Successful communication is a two way street and we hope you will provide comment and feedback on items in this e-news and any other topics you would like to hear from us about in future. You can write to us at email@example.com or call us on 9209 9300.
And, you can also check out our new Animals in Agriculture section on our RSPCA WA website.