To introduce more ethical and sustainable methods of farming, Australia has started to implement a plan to have all cage eggs eradicated by 2036. In August 2022, an Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines was released by the federal government to the public, sparking a controversial conversation between pro-cage chicken breeders and animal welfare organisations.
Cage hens, otherwise known as ‘battery hens’, present a moral and ethical dilemma. Forty percent of Australia’s eggs come from caged hens, meaning the prohibition of cages will lead to a significant change in the egg market and the price of eggs will increase drastically after 2036.
While moving away from battery cages will help make stronger and healthier chickens, there are many advantages for chicken breeders and farmers to use cages, causing outrage among those in the egg industry. Cage eggs are allegedly more environmentally friendly in comparison to free range, having an overall lower carbon footprint – which makes it a more ‘sustainable’ method of maintaining the abundant number of eggs being produced. Keeping hens in cages also acts as a form of ‘quarantine’ in which they are less prone to catching or spreading diseases to other hens, allowing healthier hens which can create more eggs than their roaming companions
Although battery cages have kept the egg industry up and running for years, they evidently have negative side effects on the hens. The Australian Eggs organisation has spoken out about the harmful ramifications of keeping hens in battery cages, including lack of socialisation with other chickens, and the inability to move much in restrictive cages lead to the development of weaker bones. Being trapped in cages, hens also cannot perform tasks that free range chickens would naturally be able to do such as nesting or dustbathing. Although the prices of eggs will rise and the overall production rate of eggs will lower, imprisoning chickens in cages is regarded as animal cruelty
Hatching a plan for abolishment
Australian egg farmers actually want to keep cages in place up until 2046, claiming that they don’t want any rapid changes among the other changes being made within the agricultural industry at the moment like the recent rollout of automated chicken vaccinations . This push to maintain cage egg farming could prove to be detrimental since larger food brands are adopting an ethical and environmentally friendly approach, and are now refusing to use cage eggs.
Keeping cage eggs in place will also be disadvantageous since it’s not only brands refusing to use cage eggs, but also nations such as the United Kingdom who are putting animal-friendly laws into effect — international trade deals are now at risk. The RSPCA has spoken about this issue for a long time and claims that Australia is behind in implementing pro-animal laws, and is well overdue for the abolition of battery cages.
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