A timeline of our work to free Aussie hens from battery cages

The fight to free Aussie chickens from battery cages has been long. This is the story to date and a summary of what we have achieved and how each of us has been able to make a positive difference.

AUGUST 2016,

The RSPCA conducted its investigation after raising concerns over the failure of the advisory group for poultry standards to reflect and consider the science regarding battery cages.

Welfare of Layer Hens Cage and Cage-Free Housing Systems Report – Authored by Dr. Kate Hartcher- found that there is overwhelming evidence to show that hens living in battery cages suffer and are frustrated because they cannot flap their wings or stretch them, perch or nest, forage or dust bathe.

The report found that battery-caged hens’ poor welfare is due to the cages and can not be improved. Australia also lags behind other developed countries in its failure to stop their use.

The report of Dr Hartcher was peer-reviewed and published in a leading international journal on poultry welfare.

October 2016

The RSPCA, concerned about the lack of progress and disappointing response from the egg industry, launched a nationwide billboard campaign in order to bring awareness to the plight of 11 million social, intelligent layer hens that are still being kept in barren, crowded battery cages.

In key locations around the country, displayed the disturbing black and white picture of hens in an empty battery cage. The accompanying text stated the obvious: “Battery cages are cruel.”


The first wave of extensive coverage highlights the failures of the process thus far and raises serious questions about the integrity of this group.

RSPCA Australia has announced for the first time that if the serious concerns raised are not satisfactorily addressed, they will reconsider their involvement in the process and whether or not to support it.

MARCH 2017,

The Victorian Government has taken the unprecedented step of conducting a scientific review.

The Victorian Government remains committed to this process. However, the decision is a clear indication that it does not trust the standard-setting process to guide its decisions.

AUGUST 2017,

Grill’d Healthy Burgers, an Australian restaurant chain, has become a major partner in the fight against animal cruelty. Also joins RSPCA’s campaign to end battery cages.

Since 2004, Grill’d Restaurants across the nation have served only free-range eggs.

October 2017

According to the RSPCA, the results of the Victorian Government’s scientific review confirm that animal welfare is impossible in battery cages.

In the review, it was stated that. Due to a lack of resources, conventional cage systems prevent birds from performing essential movements for good health, such as walking, wing stretching, and expressing their behavior needs to roost and nest or forage.

The report also stated that the limited space per hen is “related to increased mortality, physiological stress and compromised immunity function.”


The RSPCA warned the public that poor science and standards would jeopardize Australia’s future in agriculture.

RSPCA warned that Australians and their consumers were at risk of being misled due to weak and insufficient standards, which are easily disproven by science and don’t reflect community expectations.

The statement was made following the publication of Dr. Kate Hartcher’s review, The Welfare of Layer Hens in Cage and Cage-Free Systems, in the World’s Poultry Journal-. Even today, this article is still the “most read”!

The RSPCA has published groundbreaking independent research that found Australians are increasingly concerned about battery cages for layer hens. In fact, 3 out of 4 Australians now have concerns. And 8 of 10 Australians want to phase them out.

Gary Humphries, a respected former politician and lawyer who is now the Chair of RSPCA Australia, also expressed strong concerns regarding problems in developing new farming standards and guidelines, saying that any ‘animal care’ component was completely ignored.

The long-awaited public consultation about new standards for poultry opened on 26 November. As expected, these standards are not adequate and do not reflect science or scientific evidence.

The RSPCA, unwilling to tie its valuable reputation with the ‘weak’ and ’embarrassing’ draft standards of the project, was forced to distance itself publicly.


reports that the egg industry colluded with government departments in order to sabotage efforts to phase out cruel battery cages that rocked the Australian egg industry. ABC 7:30 exposed the conspiracy behind the scenes and inappropriate behavior.

January 2018

FOI documents containing executive emails sent between departments of state government revealed a high level of “stage-managing” to influence the writing of new standards for poultry welfare to benefit the egg sector.


The RSPCA commissioned independent research to determine whether education and income were factors in Australians’ concern about battery cages.

There was also no city/country division in regard to the concern for hen welfare. 82% of Australians living in rural areas and 72% who live in regional centers are either very concerned about battery cages.

Egg Farmers of Australia, as part of its submission to the consultation, announced “a temporary regulated cap on conventional cage farming.” This is only a temporary measure, and cage egg production continues to be conducted in the same way, with 9,000,000 hens forced to spend their entire lives in cages.

The public consultation ended on Monday, 26 February. Concerned Australians received more than 165,000 submissions. Many were outraged at the lack of a phase-out for battery cages in spite of the overwhelming scientific evidence that they are cruel.

October 2019

The state and territory agriculture ministries, overwhelmed by the unprecedented number of submissions and still unable to reach an agreement, appointed an independent poultry welfare panel to finalize and draft the standards and make recommendations about the future of battery-cage farming.

JUNE 2020

standards proposed by the independent panel are presented to the Federal Parliament. The draft standards include a recommendation that barren battery cages be phased out once and for all.

RSPCA Australia is pleased with the release of draft standards. They show that an independent panel listened to the science and to the community, who wanted to phase out barren battery cages.

What next?

We need the state and territory governments, now that we have released draft standards, to agree to phase out barren battery cages. It is an opportunity that comes around only once every 20 years to tackle what is probably the most serious animal welfare problem in Australia.

Please help us to end barren battery cages by taking action.


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