Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 8 Hansard (26 June) . . Page.. 2128 ..
MS HORODNY (10.32): I present the Animal Welfare (Amendment) Bill 1996.
Title read by Clerk.
MS HORODNY: I move:
That this Bill be agreed to in principle.
Today, I am presenting two Bills. One is to amend the Animal Welfare Act, and one is to amend the Food Act. These Bills represent a package which will have the combined effect of banning, after a three-year phase-out period, the production and sale of eggs from hens kept under battery cage conditions. We are also proposing to establish a labelling scheme which will indicate on egg cartons the type of egg production used. These measures will have the effect of eventually outlawing what is currently a legally allowed way of keeping hens in the egg production industry but which, by any objective measure, is very cruel on the hens themselves. This issue addresses some fundamental principles about how we keep and treat animals, particularly animals kept for human consumption.
The food production industry is increasingly moving towards a system where the quality of animal lives is of minor importance relative to their role as food. With the expansion of intensive agricultural techniques in poultry farms, piggeries, cattle feedlots and the like, farm animals are being more and more forced into mechanised production systems that take little account of animals' natural behaviour and welfare. All the industry cares about is whether there are sufficient animals or animal products of the required size, weight, et cetera, at the lowest cost to meet consumer demands. How much pain and suffering the animals have to endure along the way is not their concern. The Greens believe that all animals deserve respect and a good quality of life. We believe that farm animals such as hens should not be exploited and abused in the production of food for human benefit, especially when there are more humane alternatives available. We believe that cruelty to animals is not acceptable in our society and that this principle should be applied equally across all types of animals. Imagine that your pet cat or dog had to live all of its life in a cage that was so small that the animal could not even stretch out; that it was forced to live all of its life crammed so close to other animals in a cage that it generated constant fights between the animals. It sounds dreadful; yet this is exactly how 95 per cent of hens live while producing eggs for our supermarkets and the food processing industry.
Modern intensive agricultural practices dictate that the vast majority of eggs come from hens raised in the very cruel battery cage system. While the Greens are concerned about all intensive agricultural systems, it is difficult to do much about it in the Legislative Assembly because of the fact that most of our food is imported. There is one glaring exception to this, however, where we can, should and must do something. In the ACT there is one battery hen farm, that is, Parkwood Eggs, on the western edge of Belconnen. It houses some 260,000 hens, that is, over a quarter of a million hens, in seven sheds and produces about 80 per cent of the eggs consumed in the ACT.