Over the past three months, Voiceless Legal Counsel Ruth Hatten has completed four submissions to government to advocate for protection of animals in the law. Voiceless critiqued a contentious proposal from Australian Egg Corporation to raise free range stocking densities from 1500 to 20,000 hens per hectare and the allowance of twelve year olds to hunt alone with bows and arrows in state forests.
Submission on the Australian Egg Corporation Limited Certification Trade Mark Application - June 2012
Currently, legitimate free range farmers keep no more than 1500 hens per hectare yet Egg Corp plans to allow 20,000 birds to be crowded into the same amount of space while hijacking the ‘free range’ label to deceptively describe these overcrowded conditions.
Egg Corp has asked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to approve its Certification Trade Mark Application to use the term ‘free range’ under these conditions, something Voiceless strongly objected to in its submission to the ACCC.
Voiceless warned of the animal suffering, consumer deception and concentration of market power if Egg Corp is allowed to redefine the term ‘free range’. High stocking densities can force hens to compete for space, resulting in social stress and increased levels of aggression, displayed by way of feather pecking and cannibalism.
Voiceless also questioned the integrity of Egg Corp’s decision, given that its Board consists in part of CEOs and managing directors of the biggest egg production companies, including Sunny Queen Eggs and Pace Farms.
“Such a high stocking density will unfairly put the large corporate producers at a distinct advantage, likely resulting in unfair competition between genuine free range egg producers and those falsely holding themselves out to be,” said Voiceless Legal Counsel, Ruth Hatten.
Submission on the WA Labor Animal Welfare Discussion Paper – Strengthening Animal Welfare in Western Australia - June 2012
The WA Labor Party launched a discussion paper on improving animal welfare in the State, recommending the establishment of an animal welfare board and a review of WA's 2002 Animal Welfare Act. The paper presented an argument to fully fund the Animal Welfare Unit and separate it from the Department of Agriculture and Food, in addition to more regulation around companion and stock animals.
In its submission, Voiceless supported the establishment of an Animal Welfare Administration Board to have oversight and inquire into matters of animal welfare provided the Board is independent from the Department of Agriculture and Food while also agreeing with the recommendation to create a Western Australian Animal Welfare Strategy and the review of the current Animal Welfare Act 2002.
Voiceless also generally supports the recommendation that the Government needs to work with industry to promote “humane farming practices” and clear labelling of “humanely produced food.”
Submission on the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Regulation - June 2012
In June, the NSW Department of Primary Industries invited submissions on the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Regulation 2012 (Regulation). Within the proposed changes outlined in the recommendations, Voiceless acknowledged improvements made to certain requirements such as the pinioning of birds or the tail docking of dairy cows, heifers or female calves but advised the recommendations should go further.
Voiceless recommended that pinioning be prohibited and that the disablement of wings by feather clipping or other means be restricted to circumstances that don’t cause any pain to the bird.
Submission on the Game and Feral Animal Control Regulation - May 2012
In early May, the NSW Game Council proposed new laws to allow children as young as 12 to hunt feral animals without adult supervision using bows and arrows, dogs and knives among other proposed changes.
Allowing children to engage in the hunting of animals using bows and arrows, dogs and bowie knives is an extremely irresponsible act by the Government. In Voiceless’s opinion, permitting children to hunt will likely result in injury and possibly even death to other people in addition to the pain and suffering that will be caused to the animals.
Voiceless also objected to several other proposed changes in the Regulation including the abolition of one and three year licences as this would create risks in cases of hunters who become unfit to hold a licence due to recklessness, dangerous behaviour, criminal behaviour or in other such circumstances. Having shorter licence terms enables the relevant bodies to monitor licence holders more efficiently, especially at times of renewal.
Voiceless opposed hunting or poisoning any animal (such as kangaroos, ducks, ‘feral’ pigs, ‘feral’ cats, dogs, foxes, rabbits etc) for the sake of sport or ‘conservation’. Voiceless acknowledged that, because Australia is an island with fragile ecosystems and unique native species, environmental issues stemming from the introduction of non-native species must be addressed. We believe these issues, however, can be successfully addressed in a manner that does not cause suffering to animals.
This may include fertility control, fencing or other non-lethal means of population management. Voiceless advised that viable non-lethal alternatives can be developed to replace current lethal control if scientists are given sufficient motivation in the form of community pressure and Government support.