Caged No More: Australia banning traditional cages for poultry; making other animal welfare improvements for chickens, ducks

Chicken and duck farming will dramatically change in Australia as the government laid out new animal welfare standards after years of discussion, but the improvements won’t come quickly.

The new guidelines announced Thursday include phasing out “conventional layer hen cages” over 10 to 15 years — at the latest by 2036.

Farmers would also be required to provide “environmental enrichment” for their chickens, and duck farmers have to provide access to bathing and dunking water.

Changes to minimum light intensity and required periods of darkness, ventilation and temperature management are also part of the new rules.

“This follows an extensive process of stakeholder consultation, and the consideration of contemporary animal welfare science and community expectations,” the government explained.

But not everyone is happy with the changes.

The Animal Justice Party, for example, called the improvements long overdue.

“These are welcome changes, but they aren’t fast enough!”

Australian Alliance for Animals pointed out the “historic decision” merely means millions of laying hens to barren battery cages for years yet.

Animals Australia agreed — and it was even more harsh in its assessment.

“Until then, millions more birds may be condemned to lives of abject misery,” it said.

“Agriculture Ministers have sentenced egg laying hens to at least another decade in battery cages – despite overwhelming calls from Australians to bring the ‘cage age’ to an end,” the group said. “State governments could still choose to expedite a battery cage ban in their states.”

Battery cages have already been banned in 27 European countries and New Zealand. Photo: Animal Liberation

Animals Australia says barren battery cages are an outdated form of factory farming.

“Sociable animals who would normally spend their days foraging, exploring and dust-bathing are kept in stacked wire cages, crammed in with up to 5 other birds,” the group said. “Caged hens never feel sunlight and cannot even stretch and flap their wings. It’s a miserable existence.”

It now wants people to write their MPs to speed up the process to end caging of hens sooner than the long phase out.

“The phase out period will last 10 to 15 years – potentially condemning more than 55 million hens to a lifetime of misery,” it added.

Animal Justice Leader Georgie Purcell also said the rules need to be implemented sooner.

“Chickens are just some of the best animals,” she tweeted. “They are curious, smart & affectionate. They are also one of the most abused animals in the country. Today’s announcement is a good start, but it’s just too far away.”

Main photo: Animals Australia

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Recovering newspaper reporter.

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