Finally, battery hen cage eggs are being phased out in Australia, after a decades long battle to end this appalling cruelty – but not until 2036!
About eleven million hens are crammed together in tiny cages under artificial light for a year. Then they are pulled out and slaughtered.
Decades ago, I helped rescue hundreds of battery hens from an egg producer who was closing. Those poor birds had half their feathers missing and barely knew how to walk. They’d never seen sunlight or breathed fresh air.
Liberated and rehabilitated, hens continue to lay eggs way beyond their allotted time in a battery.
When I was a small child, there was no such thing as hens crammed in batteries. They weren’t introduced until the 1950s.
The world then was a very different place. There was no plastic pollution. No one bought soft drinks in throwaway containers.
All the bottles were glass and were returned for washing and re-use. Bread didn’t come wrapped in plastic. It was delivered to our door by a baker in a wicker basket.
Milk was also delivered to our door by a man in a blue and white striped apron. Three bottles, with thin aluminium tops, were left outside the kitchen door. The milkman picked up the empties for washing and re-use.
Occasionally, in a bitter winter, Blue Tits would peck through the tops to eat the cream. Even those bottle tops weren’t wasted.
My mother placed them in a jar on the windowsill in the kitchen, after we had finished flicking them around like flying saucers.
When the jar was full, they were taken to a shop in the High Street in Epsom, UK, where they used them to help pay for the upkeep of horses that had been put out to pasture after they had retired from pulling milk and bread carts.
One of my jobs, for which I was paid sixpence a bucket, was to scoop up manure left on our road by work horses.
My father used it on his roses.
Another pocket money earner was collecting newspapers and magazines, using an old pram and a hessian sack, from the houses around us.
Almost everything had a value.
Our modern throwaway consumer society didn’t exist then. My first shocking experience of what Vance Packard wrote about in his book The Waste Makers, was in New York in 1965.
I was passing through on my way back to Australia and visiting my cousin. She took me high up to a restaurant in a skyscraper. I put a plate of food and utensils and cup on my tray. When we had finished, I just assumed that the items we’d used would be washed.
My cousin directed me to empty the entire tray down a chute. I found that profoundly disturbing.
Our economy is now based on wasting as much as possible, as quickly as possible. No wonder the planet is in such a parlous state. It’s ingrained in people that it’s okay to buy plastic-wrapped food, contaminated with hormone disrupters and pesticide residues. We’re led to believe this is normal and acceptable. It absolutely is not.
Today, people buy fast fashion items and often throw them away after a single use.
They’re largely made from oil-derived synthetic fabrics, not natural fibres. Millions of tonnes end up in landfill and washing them leaches microplastics into the environment.
This incredibly wasteful lifestyle is driven by those corporations, without ethics, whose sole aim is to maximise profits.
Just as the caged egg industry fought tooth and nail for decades to keep their obscenely cruel batteries, so the fossil fuel industry is fighting back insidiously for their right to destroy life on Earth.
The writing is on the wall for petrol-driven cars and that market will be diminishing. The oil industry is compensating by ramping up plastic production and consumption. In 1950, plastic production was just 2 Mt (million tonnes) globally. By 2015 this had increased to 380 Mt.
That’s projected to rise to 1,606 Mt by 2050!
This ever-increasing mountain of plastic waste is becoming something of an embarrassment to industry moguls.
It’s not a good look when their product is polluting every corner of our planet. They’ve come up with a ‘solution’. How about we burn all that waste plastic and pretend to turn it into energy? The ‘waste-to-energy incineration’ lobby has been busy duchessing all levels of government and the media to attempt to build a network of plastic-burning incinerators across Australia, including one in our backyard in Casino.
Gullible councillors have been fed fanciful, and absurd, statistics on how ‘safe’ these incinerators are.
They aren’t of course.
Burning plastic makes the climate emergency worse.
Industry doesn’t tell us in their PR propaganda, for instance, that for every four tonnes of waste incinerated, one tonne of highly toxic waste ash is left, not to mention the deadly dioxins and other pollutants added to the atmosphere.
It’s possible for us to create a waste free world again.
Nature is a zero-waste system.
The idea that it’s okay to extract, consume and throw away must become obsolete.
We need to return to the idea that every bottle and bottle top is re-used or recycled, not burnt or buried.
We need to regard all creatures, including hens, as sentient beings and not just units of production.
Richard Jones is a former NSW MLC, and is now a ceramicist.