Tasmanian government invests $2.5m to speed up battery hen and sow stall bans

The Tasmanian government has announced plans to bring forward bans on battery hens and sow stalls.

Tasmanian Agriculture Minister Bryan Green has confirmed no new battery hen operations will be opened, and the existing number of pens in production will be capped.

Despite the nation-wide phasing out of gestational stalls for sows, to be complete by 2017, the Tasmanian government will invest $2.5 million over two years to speed up the ban so that none of the crates are used by mid next year.

A spokesperson from Australian Pork Limited, Australia’s peak pork representative body, told Food Magazine earlier this month that banning the sow stalls isnot as simple as "walking into a room and turning of a light.”

Almost 18 months after pork producers agreed to ban steel pens, a third of pregnant sows are no longer confined to the small stalls and more piglets have been “born free” since 2010, when pork producers agreed to voluntarily ban the use of sow stall use by 2017.

Figures from Australian Pork Limited, show that one in three sows now spend their pregnancies outside gestation crates, but animal welfare activists say more can – and should – be done.

Many pork producers across Australia have already voluntarily phased out the use of sow stalls, but the cost and time implications mean that it is unrealistic to force farmers to change before the 2017 deadline, the Australian Pork Limited spokesperson told Food Magazine.

The Tasmanian Budget revealed the $2.5 million will help farmers to "respond to market trends that indicate consumers are increasingly sensitive to animal welfare".

Coles has pledged to only stock fresh pork meat supplied by producers who have abandoned sow stalls by 2014, and experience would indicate Woolworths would quickly follow suit.

Burger King also announced earlier this month that it will only use animal products that come from free-range farms by 2017.

Tasmanian egg farmer John Groenewald told the ABC he was given only two weeks notice of the phase-out plans.

"For the government to say to consumers this is how you will go, instead of encouraging of encouraging consumers to go a particular way, it's quite a significant difference," he said.

"Cages are 65 per cent of the eggs sold in Tasmania, and I don't think it's a particularly smart move to say you can't buy them".

"We've got the issue of write-down of existing plant and equipment and replacing it with alternative production systems. We're talking millions of dollars here."

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