Story & photo Eve Jeffery
Putting all his ‘eggs’ in one basket at the Byron farmers market yesterday, Greens NSW MP Dr John Kaye said that he wants to see the government pass laws that restrict the amount of chickens allowed per hectare under the free-range banner.
Dr Kaye says that the NSW government is failing to protect consumers who don’t want to buy into animal cruelty. ‘National Party members from the north coast region ought to be lobbying hard within the coalition party room to ensure the O’Farrell government supports the Greens’ legislation to protect free-range producers and consumers’, he said.
‘The Egg Corporation is steamrolling ahead with plans to officially increase the free-range stocking density from 1,500 to 20,000 birds per hectare.’
If birds are allowed to be squashed to as many as 20,000 per hectare, they are basically battery hens without a roof.
Dr Kaye said that consumers need to be very aware of what they are buying as the chances that a vendor who sells cage eggs as well as a free-range alternative, might have little concern for chicken welfare if they are prepared to house battery hens.
‘Large industrial producers are being given a licence to hijack the term ‘free-range’ and exploit the rise in demand for humanely produced eggs.’
Dr Kaye says that the only way to protect the future of the free-range egg industry on the north coast is through legislation.
‘Truth in labelling is really a Nationals issue’, he says. ‘It supports small-scale farmers and businesses and asserts consumer rights. The message is simple – if the label says “free range” the eggs should be free range. Local Nationals member Don Page should stand up for genuine free-range farmers and consumers by voting for a legislated definition of “free range”.’
Echonetdaily spoke to two egg farmers at the market on the day, both of whom adhered to the very strict rules about the space needed per chook head.
Nashua Valley Organics chickens live with about a third of the recommended amount of 1500 fowl neighbours per hectare. ‘I have two hectares and about 1000 chickens so that’s about 500 per hectare,’ said farmer Wally Waldron. ‘Because I am also organic, my chickens are required to have a certain amount of space inside the shed as well. Because of the size of my shed, my chickens have ended up with more space outside.’
The lucky chooks at Hayters Hill Farm live in chicken heaven with about 2000 chickens sharing 120 hectares with some cattle and a few humans. The chickens are moved around and get plenty to peck on at the farm.
An action kit for helping our fowl friends, complete with information sheets, lobbying tips and campaign materials is available on request from Lauren Waldon in the office of John Kaye Greens NSW MP by emailing [email protected].