Plans by the egg corporation to cram 20,000 chickens into a single hectare of land and still be able to call them ‘free-range ’ have again come under attack by the Greens.
The Egg Corporation is perservering with plans to allow ‘free-range’ eggs to be produced from hens crammed into two birds per square metre, despite the fact that a national code demands less than one-tenth of that ratio.
Greens NSW MP John Kaye described the move as an attack on the rights of ethical consumers and a death-blow to many genuine free-range farmers.
He told Echonetdaily that the practice is totally unsustainable. ‘Chickens need to live out their natural behaviours.’
A Greens bill to override the Egg Corporation’s plan and introduce mandated limits on the number of birds per hectare has passed the state’s upper house with support from Christian Democrats, Shooters and Fishers and the ALP.
‘We wanted 750 birds per hectare, which was amended by Labor to 1,500. This is the nationally agreed model code for the treatment of animals and this is what should be legislated.
‘The Egg Corporation has graphically demonstrated the need for legislated definition.
‘Self-regulation of free-range egg standards is now a proven failure.’
The Greens are building up a campaign to get the legislation through the lower house but need to convince the coalition that it is electorally silly not to put effort into the bill.
‘We are quietly hopeful,’ he told Echonetdaily. ‘A lot of people are strongly concerned.
‘The Egg Corporation is trying to boost the profits of the industrial producers it represents at the expense of genuine free-range farmers and consumers.
‘Increasing free-range stocking densities from 1,500 to 20,000 birds per hectare will destroy any meaning that the ‘free-range’ label might have had.
‘It will deny choice to ethical consumers and it will devastate the livelihoods of small and medium-sized farmers who respect their animals.
‘Large industrial producers are being given a licence to hijack the term ‘free-range’ and drive the genuine farmers out of the market.
‘The Egg Corporation is completely out of touch with consumers.
‘The Egg Corporation has run roughshod over NSW Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson’s egg labelling consultative process.
‘A legislated definition of free-range that ensures commonly-accepted standards of animal treatment is now the only way to ensure the future of the free-range egg industry.’