In the heat of summer, Max gives his chickens ice-blocks.
In the heat of summer, Max gives his chickens ice-blocks. "They love it and it's heaps of fun watching them peck away at it,” he says. Max's Chickens

Farmer Max says poultry standards aren't up to scratch

MOUNT Larcom's ten-year-old chicken farmer Max Cosgrove has sided with the RSPCA after the group announced it was shocked by the draft Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Poultry released late last year.

Against expectations, the draft standards allowed for the continuation of battery cages for layer hens, requiring only that cages must be taller than the chickens.

Max, who breeds pure-bred chickens for sale and also runs an egg business, said this was "not OK".

"The (draft) poultry standards don't cater for the basic needs of a chicken," he said.

 

Max raises chickens of a variety of breeds: from Silver Laced to Lavender, Buff and Coronation Sussex.
Max raises chickens of a variety of breeds: from Silver Laced to Lavender, Buff and Coronation Sussex. Max's Chickens

"A roof just above a chicken's head would get too hot for the bird, plus it doesn't allow the chickens to roost at night."

Max also criticised the fact that the draft standards do not make it mandatory for poultry farmers to provide perches, dust bathing materials, objects for pecking and other environmental enrichment activities.

"Looking after my chicken's welfare is similar to looking after people," he said.

"We all need fresh water, nice food, a comfy place to live, exercise and even entertainment."

"All (my chickens) get a turn of free ranging most afternoons and they love to have a dust bath... when (animals are) happy, they produce much better," he said.

The draft standards have been mired in controversy after the ABC's 7.30 report last month. The program aired claims that the NSW Department of Primary Industries (the body leading the preparation of the draft standards) held secret discussions with the egg industry to prevent battery cages being outlawed in the standards.

 

One of young Mount Larcom farmer Max Cosgrove's chickens enjoying fresh mango.
One of young Mount Larcom farmer Max Cosgrove's chickens enjoying fresh mango. Max's Chickens

The Western Australian government responded to the ABC's report by calling for an independent statutory body to over-see the drafting and enforcement of animal welfare standards nationally.

The RSPCA were quick to slam the standards as "embarrassing".

"This approach goes against everything we stand for, and indeed, everything that caring Australians stand for - as confirmed by recent research showing 84 per cent of Australians want to end the battery cage," Heather Neil, RSPCA CEO said.

The draft standards are open for public consultation until February 26.

Cage eggs still represent about half the retail fresh egg market volume, meaning the outcome of the public consultation will affect the lives of approximately 600 million birds.

To have your say go to http://www.animalwelfarestandards.net.au/poultry/ or https://www.rspca.org.au/campaigns/layer-hen-welfare

How do you think chickens in the Australian meat and egg industry should be treated?

This poll ended on 23 January 2018.

Current Results

About the same as they are now. The current standards are good enough

48%

The standards should outlaw battery cages as a minimum

9%

Chickens should be able to exercise their full range of natural behaviours, the standards have a long way to go

41%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.



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