Target: Department of Agriculture Secretary Daryl Quinlivan
Goal: Reform new expanded definition of “free-range” egg hens to meet PETA standards rather than farmer desires.
Farmers in Australia lobbied for the density of hens per hectare to be increased from 1,500 to 10,000. According to them, this desire is supported by science. However, they failed to specify if this was the science of making more money more cheaply, or legitimate animal welfare science. Their lobbying was successful. The bill to expand free-range requirements was passed by the Minister of Small Business Kelly O’Dwyer and her colleagues.
This bill is dressed up in pretty language that sounds good, but when is population congestion ever good? According to these standards, there can be no more than one hen per square meter. The hens must have “meaningful and regular” access to the outdoors, but the bill says nothing about required quality of outdoor space. Egg producers will also have to “prominently disclose” the outdoor stocking density of their hens, which could mean that farmers will only need to provide hens that are outside with the required space.
There are many problems with this bill, including that there is no actual science to support that it is in any way beneficial to the hens. Plus, while science says hens need a space as large as their wingspan, at bare minimum, this bill’s standard will reduce that to the size of a football per hen to walk around in. How is that in any way good for hens to be so crammed together there is barely enough space to shuffle without bumping into one another?
Small business egg farmers claim that they have wanted a free-range national standard, but that this bill yet again fails to meet their desires. Many of the standards on this bill were influenced by big corporations, and thus the bill leans heavily in their favor.
The chief executive of the NSW Farmers claimed that ministers who supported the bill took the time to visit a farm and “engaged with the issue.” Managing director of Day Eggs claims that stocking density is less important than other factors such as temperature, though the sorry state of America’s caged egg hens would quite vehemently disagree with his poor assessment.
Many animal advocate organizations are calling for a consumer egg boycott until the regulations are changed to account for hen welfare rather than big business money. Science and animal experts have not been enough to nail home the major problems with population congestion in the egg industry–even now corporate greed is given more attention than animal welfare.
Demand this farce of a bill be repealed. Don’t allow this first step down the path of free-range deregulation to stand.
Dear Secretary Quinlivan,
Recently, farmers lobbied for a bill that would expand free-range hen conditions. The bill was passed, but it proves a major problem. These new standards would severely lessen hen welfare on egg farms. The population density of hens has been increased from 1,500 hens per hectare to 10,000. This would give each hen the space of a football to move around. Animal experts, however, have repeatedly stressed the need for hens to be able to fully extend their wings to either side.
A football’s space does not allow for that–it would hardly allow each hen to move at all, thus entirely defeating the purpose of the name free-range. On top of this, this bill did not set standards for outdoor conditions for hens. This poses the problem of hens not wanting to go outside due to lack of water or shade to escape the sun.
Overall, this bill is a farce. It was bought about by the influence of major businesses to increase their revenue while decreasing expenditure. Nothing about upping population congestion of hens supports their welfare, and to allow them to brand their products free-range when their hens can hardly move is insanity.
Already calls are being made to boycott egg purchases due to this legislation. Please look into this recent bill. Seek a national standard which takes into account the well-being of the animals rather than decreasing costs for businessmen.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Brooke Neindorf