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Free range egg clarity and Office of Animal Welfare - both overdue

Media Release
Lee Rhiannon 16 May 2013

Free range farmer representatives, the animal protection organisation Humane Society International and 40,000 consumers today joined with the Australian Greens in calling for national action on egg labelling to protect consumers and free range farmers and help drive improvements in the treatment of laying hens.

Humane Society International was at Parliament House today to present 40,000 postcards to the Prime Minister, sent by consumers demanding action on free range egg standards and labelling.

"Consumers' heads are spinning because they cannot trust that the eggs they buy are genuinely free range or from hens living miserable lives in cages or sheds," Senator Rhiannon said.

"Humane Society International should be congratulated for bringing this strong message of public support for change to Canberra.

"Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig has been sitting on his hands even after the ACCC has raised the alarm, happy to leave shoppers in the dark and free range egg farmers with an uncertain future.

"Free range eggs are big business, making up 28.4 per cent of the national market in 2010-11 and $200 million in retail sales.

"There is a worldwide movement of people waking up to the problems of factory farming and expecting governments to act.

"While across Europe labelling of egg production systems is mandatory and caged birds are being banned, Australia lags well behind.

"State Greens MPs are doing fantastic work to legislate a definition of free-range egg production in NSW, South Australia and WA, but not all jurisdictions are acting.

"The Greens are hoping the government backs our Senate motion today calling for the Agriculture Minister to take national action to protect consumers and free range farmers who are battling big producers.

"It's time for Minister Ludwig to work with state and territory governments to implement mandatory, nationally consistent truth-in-labelling laws covering production methods in the egg industry.

Senator Rhiannon also commented on the major parties' decision to vote down her motion yesterday calling on Labor to introduce legislation for the overdue Office of Animal Welfare before the election.

"Despite the chatter in Labor about moving to establish an independent watchdog for animals real action is illusory," Senator Rhiannon said.

Motion on the Office of Animal Welfare which Labor and the Coalition voted down yesterday:

Motion on free range eggs to be voted on today:

1237 Senator Rhiannon: To move-That the Senate-

(a) notes that:

(i) the voluntary national Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Domestic Poultry designates a maximum outdoor stocking density of 1 500 free range layer hens per hectare yet this is not enforceable and relies on self-regulation,

(ii) there is no consistent state government move to legislate a maximum of 1,500 hens per hectare, with only New South Wales, Tasmanian, Western Australian and South Australian governments currently considering bills to do so

(iii) while an overdue review by the Primary Industries Ministerial Council of the Domestic Poultry Code has finally begun, it is years from completion and implementation, and

(iv) the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has made free range eggs one of seven priority areas for 2013, noting consumers want clear and accurate labelling of eggs; and

(b) calls on the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (Senator Ludwig) to work with state and territory governments to implement mandatory, nationally consistent truth-in-labelling laws covering production methods in the egg industry.



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