Humane Society International praises Tasmania’s move to make battery hen farming history as well as fast-tracking the phasing out of sow stalls for pigs in response to increased demand for ethical produce. Being the first Australian state to make this move, Tasmania is making history and is moving towards becoming ‘the humane state of Australia’, leaving the others well behind. The European Union recently celebrated a similar victory, making battery cages illegal at the beginning of 2012, sparing the welfare of at least 300 million hens from these inhumane living conditions.
The battery cage typically holds four or five hens with floor space per bird less than an A4 sheet of paper, preventing them from spreading their wings or displaying the most basic natural behaviours. Poor ventilation, low light levels, and often being forced to stand on a sloping wire mesh floor, only adds to the extreme physical and psychological stress these animals endure. Sow stalls are equally inhumane, confining a pregnant sow to such an extent that she is unable to turn around. Many consumers have responded by attempting to choose free range eggs and pork, favouring the ethical alternatives, however, this can be a challenging task with no labelling laws in Australia to distinguish the true free range products.
“As there are no laws in place in Australia to enforce clear labelling of ethically produced meat and eggs, the rights of consumers and small producers are sacrificed because humane products are so difficult to identify,” says Verna Simpson, HSI Director. “If the Australian Government refuses to improve labelling laws and instead continues to allow for consumers to be misled, then Tasmania could secure a major proportion of the emerging market for ethical produce.”
The move towards ethical farming methods by both Tasmania and the EU only highlights an even greater need for the remaining Australian states to follow suit and step up, following their example. The $2.5 million initiative puts Tasmania at the forefront of animal welfare standards. They are placing an immediate ban on future battery hen operations and capping existing hen stock during the transition. They have also committed to phase out sow stalls by mid-2013, well before the industry’s target of 2017. Again, Australia falls well behind given that sow stalls were banned over a decade ago in countries such as the UK.
Although HSI will continue to work towards the legislation of truth in labelling for ethical produce so consumers are no longer misled and small producers are protected, we have today written to Tasmanian Primaries Industry Minister Bryan Green requesting a meeting to discuss the potential for Tasmania to become ‘the Humane State’.