Hope in sight for battery hens

For the 12 million hens still confined in battery cages in Australia hope is finally in sight. The recent announcement by Woolworths that it would reduce its product lines of caged eggs represents the first shift by a major retailer away from supporting factory-farmed products, and importantly, reflects growing consumer awareness of the lives endured by hens in battery cages...

PUBLISHED ON: 1 August 2012

Whilst the battery cage has been banned in the EU since the start of 2012, no phase out date has been forecast for Australia. With political reviews failing to provide welfare advances for animals, Animals Australia's focus changed to lobbying retailers and educating consumers to use their purchasing power to demand an end to cruel practices.

Last year members of Animals Australia's Action Network wrote to Woolworths expressing their concerns about how hens and pigs were treated. Woolworths advised us that in response to letters received, they had established an animal welfare committee to review their livestock supplier standards — another great win for the Action Network!

Both Animals Australia and Animal Liberation NSW have presented evidence of the suffering endured by factory farmed animals to this committee; and called on Woolworths to improve their standards and phase out their lines of factory farmed products.

This subsequent decision by Woolworths to reduce its lines of caged eggs is welcomed as an important first step that will send a strong signal to caged egg producers that the end is nigh.

In further good news, McDonalds announced that it would be moving its Australian operation to only using free-range eggs. Our meetings with both Woolworths and McDonalds have revealed the growing significance that retailers are giving to meeting and addressing animal welfare concerns.

In the UK welfare reforms have been led by retailers. Two of Britain's biggest supermarkets no longer stock caged eggs and McDonalds, Subway and Starbucks in the UK use only free-range eggs.

The spotlight will now fall on Australia's other major retailer Coles to follow Woolworths' lead. Animals Australia continues to be involved in Woolworths' review of livestock welfare standards with the hope that further advances will be agreed to by this influential retailer.


Caged Egg Figures

  • 30: The average number of hours suffered by a battery hen to produce just 1 egg.
  • 1.5: The age (in years) at which most battery hens are slaughtered after their egg-laying declines (of a natural lifespan of 12 years).
  • 1 in 6: The estimated number of battery hens who live in cages with untreated broken bones.

How you can help

Learn more about the plight of hens in battery cages — and what you can do to help them — at Make it Possible.

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