Humane Society International (HSI) congratulates Councillor John Arkan of Coffs Harbour City Council (CHCC) for joining the fight against Australian Egg Corporation Limited (AECL). AECL recently proposed changes to industry standards allowing an increased stocking density for free range hens from 1,500 to 20,000 birds per hectare, a massive 13 fold increase.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) have called for comments on the proposed changes which are now due by 30th June 2012. Coffs Harbour City Council voted unanimously to make a submission to the ACCC and they hope neighbouring Councils will follow their example and do the same.
Humane Society International calls for other Councils to step in and join Coffs Harbour City Council in an effort to protect consumers, producers, and of course the hens, by arguing that the lower limit of 1,500 hens per hectare must be enforced. The proposed standard would be welcomed by larger industrialized producers because it would allow them to market more of their eggs as ‘free range’, but it could potentially devastate genuine free range egg farmers. If the changes were passed it would also mean that the term ‘free range’ would no longer reflect consumer expectations, affecting consumer confidence in the egg industry.
The Government model for addressing these issues is to put it in the too hard basket and hand it back to industry to self regulate. The history of industry self regulation is a grim one when dealing with livestock issues, as we all witnessed in the recent live trade debate. The way peak industry bodies operate is to favour the large industrial producers at the cost of real Australian farmers. This current egg debate is a good example of how this works. Egg Corporation (AECL) have identified the growing demand for free range eggs but rather than support the true free range farmers in expansion, they want to redefine free range to suit the existing production methods already used by Egg Corp assured farms, running more than 20,000 hens per hectare. This is blatant fraud perpetuated by industry and is being sanctioned by Government.
We applaud Coffs Harbour Council for speaking up for their producers and constituents and encourage other Councils to follow suit.
To find out more about how you can provide comments to the ACCC, due by their extended deadline of 30th June 2012, click on this link which will take you to the relevant page on our website.