Free The Hens

Battery Cage Hens Queensland Law Posted May 7, 2021
Right now in Australia 11 million layer hens are confined to a space less than the size of an A4 piece of paper. It is well understood that battery cages have harmful effects on these social, intelligent, curious and sentient creatures. Living outside a cage is not a luxury for hens, it is critically necessary for their welfare.
In the past, animal welfare was determined by the absence of disease, hunger, thirst and other negative states. We now know, however, that good welfare also requires positive states like positive mental experiences, a safe environment and good health. In common battery cage systems hens must stand on uncomfortable metal wire and stick their heads through small spaces to reach their food. Their tight enclosures can cause bone fractures, feather loss and painful foot problems. As many as 100,000 birds can be housed in one shed. 
Hens are not only cramped and uncomfortable, they are also denied the ability to perform many of their natural behaviours essential for their wellbeing and quality of life. Caged layer hens cannot forage, nest, perch, dustbathe or walk around. They can’t stretch out their wings, fly or move away from other hens. Just like humans, not all birds get along. Imagine the stress of not being able to get away from your aggressive neighbour because you are stuck in a cage with them! Feather pecking and even cannibalism are not unheard of for caged layer hens. The conditions are so unnatural and so stressful that hens perform behaviours unseen in more natural environments. The high stress environment and lack of exercise can also lead to liver rupture and death
This is not how hens are supposed to live

The evidence is clear – battery cages cannot possibly provide an acceptable standard of welfare for layer hens.

We can stop the use of battery cages in Australia, but we must act now

Seventy per cent of Australians are concerned about hens in battery cages and almost half choose to purchase cage free eggs at the supermarket. While all our major supermarkets have pledged to phase out caged eggs over the next few years, there is still cause for concern regarding eggs used in food manufacturing, catering, restaurants and cafes. It is estimated that eighty per cent of eggs used in these services are derived from battery caged hens. A number of restaurants and service providers have pledged to go cage-free in response to consumer demands. This shows the power we have as every day consumers to create change for animals.

Unfortunately however, the individual or company-by-company approach will not be enough to end the suffering of hens in Australia. Caged eggs are still being used in common processed foods like mayonnaise and sauce and consumers have very little power to change this or avoid these products completely. This is why we need an industry-wide phase out to end these cruel and unnecessary enclosures for good.

Let’s ban the battery cage

Animal welfare standards are currently under review by the Australian Government. Legislators have the opportunity to introduce uniform minimum standards for cage-free systems that are up to date with the latest animal welfare science. A national phase out for battery cages, enacted through legislation, is the best way to effect the required changes as quickly as possible and stop the unnecessary pain and suffering of hens. This would simply speed up the inevitable process of banning the battery cage here in Australia. We are already moving much slower than other developed nations in terms of animal welfare standards. 

The entire European Union and our close New Zealand neighbours began phasing out battery cages in 2012. Meanwhile in Australia, caged layer hen farming still makes up more than sixty per cent of total egg production. We must act now to avoid falling any further behind international standards and community expectations. Self-regulation within the egg industry is not sufficient to ensure the welfare of our layer hens. Now is the time for battery cages to cease in Australia.

What can you do?

Support legislation to ban the battery cage by joining the movement online at Share your call for change by using #endthebatterycage on your social media. 

Read more about layer hen welfare in the latest issue of The Biscuit – RSPCA’s new magazine for animal lovers.

Lucy Richardson
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