Better welfare in sight for poultry
The good thing is that, after seven years of development, the Australian Poultry Standard and Guidelines have been released and include a number of welcome (and much-overdue) suggestions for improving the well-being of millions of bird species. The Standards are still to be approved by state and territory agricultural Ministers and should eventually be the basis for legislation governing state and territory raising of poultry. If the Standards are endorsed, Standards are expected to replace the existing Model Code, which has been a voluntary Model Code.
The readers of this blog may have noticed our recent announcements that focused on recognizing the date of phase-out confirmation of battery cages (which five million layer chickens live in the state of Australia). However, there have been significant but small victories in the case of ducks, turkeys, or meat poultry. Here are some key takeaways from the Standards and what they may have to do with our feathered friends
More favorable Turkeys in better conditions
Intelligent and curious, turkeys – as well as ducks and chickens – are among the bird species most commonly raised in Australia to eat. Similar to chickens, they are also curious about things around them and require different types of stimulation in order to stay stimulated. According to the revised Standards and Guidelines, turkeys should now have perches, platforms, and things to peck at, along with the environment, which includes food sources and cover for securing themselves. Lighting regimes for sheds that are improved are also recommended that, if approved, would allow turkeys to rest with no light and continuous periods of daylight to encourage activeness.
Additional water available for ducks
There’s a reason behind the expression “water off the back of a duck’. Did you be aware they are waterfowl and have evolved to spend large amounts all day in the water? Under the old Model Code of Practice, there was not much option for ducks to gain access to farm water apart from drinking water. It is now required that the Standards and Guidelines require breeding ducks to be provided with access to water in order to enable natural behavior such as preening, dipping their heads, and dabbling. Being able to drink water to allow these behaviors is essential for ducks. They help keep their feathers clean, keep their feet clear of parasites, and maintain their body temperatures. The RSPCA wants to see every duck be able to drink water to perform their natural behaviors, and we will continue to push for this.
Legislative changes in the meat industry for chickens
While the majority of the meat-producing chickens that are raised in Australia are raised according in accordance with an RSPCA Standard by Producers who are certified RSPCA Approved and legally required to possess perches and enrichment (and many more), The updated Standards and Guidelines now need
D All meat chickens must have access to a quality litter that promotes natural scratching, pecking, and foraging behaviors. The Standards also require minimum standards for light intensity as well as the requirement of a period of darkness during activities and rest, along with temperatures and ventilation requirements in the barns. The space requirement for the legally permitted minimum has been raised to accommodate the chickens’ growing rate to ensure that even as they expand, they have enough space to fly and move about freely. The recommendations for improvement on the farm might result in a significant change in meat chicken practices closer to aligning with the RSPCA’s standards. They focus on scientifically-based improvements to the welfare of animals.
Clucky Chooks requires your assistance!
A halt to battery cages is on the horizon, and the nation’s Poultry Standards and Guidelines call for the elimination of all battery cages in Australia at the latest 2036. The prospect of a date when the battery cages that exist in Australia are a victory for layer hens and the entire community that has been begging to eliminate the cells for more than forty years. But, the decision to set an end date that is so far in the future implies many layer hens are likely to be in harsh conditions. The best welfare can’t be accomplished in a cage, and that isn’t a suitable way to live for a layer hen.
States and territories have yet to sign up and adopt the Standards. We’re encouraging them to adopt the Standards at the earliest time possible. There’s absolutely no reason Australia can’t wait until 2036 to eliminate battery cages. States and territories can initiate a phase-out prior to the timeframe. For example, the Australian Capital Territory proactively did this in 2014, and the RSPCA is now urging other states and Northern Territory egg producers to make a commitment to a transition to cage-free systems. Many brands and retailers have already pledged to move to using cage-free eggs in 2025. Take a look at the Cage-Free and Proud directory to determine whether your preferred brand is included in this list.
It is also possible to use the power of your dollars to stop battery cages faster by purchasing alternatives to cage eggs like barn-laid, free-range, or RSPCA-approved. Also, look for the cage-free mark on items that contain eggs, like cake mixes and ready meals. Alternatively, search for eggs free of cages on your favorite menus in restaurants and cafes because cage eggs can sometimes be hidden within ingredients. A bid to increase demand for cage-free eggs will send a strong message to brands that Australians are not in favor of the use of cages made from batteries or businesses that source their eggs from producers who use cells.