Animal welfare activists have alleged that the government of New South Wales has not properly enforced the recently updated poultry regulations which call for the gradual elimination of caged eggs. This comes after the agriculture minister stated in a budget estimates hearing that they have no plans to make them into law.
On Wednesday, the minister of agriculture, Tara Moriarty, stated that there are currently no intentions to pass legislation regarding national standards for poultry in NSW.
“We have a strong dedication to adhering to the standards and ensuring their execution… We are collaborating with the industry to implement these standards promptly, as required,” stated Moriarty during a budget estimates hearing.
In July, state and territory agriculture ministers reached a consensus to implement the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Poultry. These standards include minimum requirements for the treatment of animals, such as prohibiting the use of battery cages for laying hens. All states and territories, except for NSW, have committed to phasing out caged eggs by 2036.
Moriarty stated during the estimates hearing that a specific timeline for implementing standards in the state has yet to be decided.
She stated that there is a timeframe to collaborate with the industry to ensure that we are implementing the process correctly, while also avoiding any complications.
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The gradual implementation in Australia has raised concerns among industry groups and animal welfare supporters.
According to Dr. Jed Goodfellow, policy director of the Australian Alliance for Animals, when the state with the largest industry jurisdiction indicates that they have no plans to regulate standards in the near future, it puts other states and territories in a challenging situation.
If there is no law in effect, there will always be sections of the market that can still utilize caged eggs. In the absence of regulations requiring the industry to dismantle their cages, they will not do so.
The CEO of the Egg Farmers of Australia, Melinda Hashimoto, stated after the meeting of agricultural ministers in July that cage egg producers were left uncertain without a set timeline.
The statement reported that the ministers have decided to ban cage eggs, but have given each state the power to determine the time frame for phasing them out. This may be seen as either positive or negative for producers, depending on how long the states allow cage eggs to remain on the market. Therefore, it is important for states to provide clear information so that farmers can prepare for what lies ahead.
The agriculture minister did not provide a specific timeline for implementing the standards in NSW. During the estimates hearing, the minister mentioned ongoing consultations with animal welfare groups and leaders in the poultry industry.
She stated that we are collaborating with businesses to meet the required standards in a timely manner. However, we are also considering the potential effects on businesses, supply, and costs.
Xavier Martin, the president of NSW Farmers, stated that he would be open to ongoing discussions with the poultry industry.
“NSW Farmers recognizes the stance of the NSW Government and appreciates their commitment to continued collaboration with the industry to develop a suitable solution that considers the effects on businesses, food supply, and food prices,” stated the speaker.
The estimates hearing on Wednesday discussed the possible impact of budget cuts on public sector jobs in regional areas, specifically within the Department of Primary Industries and the Department of Regional NSW.
“I am confident that DPI will continue to excel in their work, despite the limitations of their resources,” stated Moriarty. “Their performance is outstanding across all regions of the state, and there is no need for any disruptions.”
When questioned by Nationals MLC Sam Farraway about job security in the departments, Moriarty attributed the $7.8 billion deficit in this year’s budget to the previous government.
“The budget is what it is and we have to make sure that resources are spent in a way because of your government. We have inherited [a] significant budget … hole because your government,” she said.
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