Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 6 Hansard (6 May) . . Page.. 1995..
MS LE COUTEUR: I thank you. I am pleased to present the Assembly with the exposure draft of the legislation that would outlaw the cruel practice of keeping hens for egg production in a cage system. This is a production method commonly called battery cage farming or sometimes layer hen farming.
As currently drafted, the Eggs (Cage Systems) Legislation Amendment Bill would make it illegal to continue this practice in the ACT from 2011. The bill introduces a key additional element which changes the way that cage eggs can be sold in the ACT. I will discuss that shortly.
It should not even be necessary for me to explain the chronic suffering that is endured by hens living in battery cages. I am sure members of the Assembly are all aware of it. Every one of us would say that we support animal welfare and oppose animal cruelty. Yet this inhumane production method continues here in the ACT year after year. We sometimes become distanced from the reality of this suffering. I think we should all consider whether we are complicit in animal cruelty if we fail to take genuine steps to ensure that as a community we do not produce our food through inhumane methods.
I will therefore remind the Assembly of a few facts about cage egg production.
Hens in cage systems live in confined wire cages with a floor space of less than the size of a piece of A4 paper. They do not have room to scratch, flap or walk freely, let alone nest or dust bathe. They cannot even stand up without pushing up against other hens. They never see daylight; in fact, they live in artificially lit surroundings designed to maximise egg laying. A study of battery hens showed that 31 per cent of battery hens had broken bones at some time before they were killed. Battery hens are in fact killed after one year of these conditions, when they are considered spent.
And that is by no means the end of it. I encourage anyone who wants more information to look further into it. At the very least, you will see that battery hen cage farming is a system which ignores the fact that chickens feel pain, fear, stress and frustration, just as humans do. Battery cage farming treats animals as mere production units. It is economics without humanity.
This practice has already been banned in many countries, including the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Norway. The European Union is phasing out battery cage production for a total ban on cages from 2012. The US state of California last year voted to ban this type of cage as well as to introduce other improvements for the welfare of farm animals.
Yet the battery cage system remains legal here in Australia. It is sad that we drag the chain while others take a more civilised approach to the treatment of other sentient creatures.
If, as Gandhi said, the greatness and moral progress of a nation can be judged by the way it treats its animals, we are not yet great. It is too late for the ACT to be a leading jurisdiction in the world, but it is not too late for us to lead the way for the rest of Australia.
I am tabling this bill as an exposure draft so that we as an Assembly can find a way to make this happen. I think that my bill essentially has the solution. If the Assembly