Chicken farmers have blasted the RSPCA for threatening to walk out on negotiations for a new poultry industry animal welfare code of practice in a move labelled petty by the Victorian Farmers Federation.
The VFF has accused the animal rights group of damaging a year’s worth of work drafting new industry standards over a protest aimed at forcing the egg industry into abandoning its practice of caged egg production.
VFF Egg President Tony Nesci said the process of implementing a new national Code of Practice for the poultry industry was based around consultation with a broad range of stakeholders, including scientists, industry and animal welfare groups, and the RSPCA was reckless in maligning the stakeholder consultation process.
“The aim of the Code is to reflect the latest science, industry practice and community expectations, which is why poultry farmers have openly collaborated with scientists and animal welfare groups in developing the new standards,” Mr Nesci said.
“All groups have been working on this for the past year, where the RSPCA has had ample opportunity to contribute.
“But now the RSPCA is claiming that industry has somehow influenced the science – claims which have no basis in fact, because they don’t like what the proposed standards the stakeholder group has created.”
The basis of the RSPCA’s protest is a letter written months ago by animal welfare scientists Dr Jean-Loup Rault, Professor Tina Widowski and Professor Paul Hemsworth raising questions about several papers they believed selectively used their research to support the case for battery cages.
But Dr Rault has said he and the other researchers were now satisfied with the revised paper referencing their work.
“There should be no issue if the three scientists are now satisfied with how their work has been portrayed, and the public will have the full information at hand when the public consultation occurs in April, but the RSPCA continues to insist the research is somehow influenced by industry,” Mr Nesci said.
“It’s fine for the RSPCA to have opinions about conventional cages, but we will be directed by the science of the matter.
“We are trying to make a cohesive industry that is in line with community expectations because, as farmers, we want ensure the absolute best animal welfare standards for our birds.
“The RSPCA needs to think seriously about whether it wants to be part of that process or to throw stones from the outside at the people working towards achieving better welfare for hens.”