United Poultry Concerns May 17, 2004

Austrian battery farm campaign: first signs of a breakthrough

By Martin Balluch ( honsch@nextra.at )

A complete ban of battery farming is now within reach. In internal meetings between all parliamentary parties, the government has for the first time suggested a path towards abolishing battery farming. Here is what happened since 8th of May:

1) Up until the 14th May, we had held altogether 68 demos against battery farming since end of February.

2) Altogether 2500 placards against the Conservative party for their stance towards animals have been put up, especially during the election campaigns. Against 2 people the conservative party has started a law suit.

3) On 10th May, a prominent weekly newspaper published a whole-page appeal to the prime minister signed by 7 major national animal rights and animal welfare organisations and by 78 prominent people from science and arts. The advert was paid by the national groups.

4) On 10th May, the Green Party managed to get into the media on a big scale, scolding the government for not showing any movement in their position. The two largest daily newspapers carried this on the front page.

5) On 11th May, the parliamentary committee met formally for the last time. No agreements were reached. But it was arranged to have an informal all-party meeting on Thursday 13th May. There shall be additional informal meetings next week at least twice, and the very last committee meeting on 25th May. Then the results shall be made public and be voted on in Parliament on 16th June.

6) THE BREAKTHROUGH: On Thursday 13th May the delegation of the conservative party suggested, according to unofficial sources, the following path towards abolishing battery farming proper:

From 1st January 2005 onwards, no new battery farm is allowed to be built. Till 1st Jan 2009, all conventional non-enriched battery farms have to close down. All enriched battery farms that are in existence till 1st Jan 2005 can continue to run for 15 years from the date they were built onwards. At the moment, there are about 5 such battery farms in existence, maybe more are being built till 1st Jan 2005. All those have to close down latest till 1st Jan 2020.

The opposition wants the following changes:

Only enriched-cage battery farms that were built till 30th June 2004 shall be allowed to have an exception from the ban for 10 instead of 15 years since they were built, i.e. latest till 30th June 2014. From 1st Jan 2013 the EC allows only enriched-cage battery farms, not the old conventional ones.

Albeit this sounds like a long time, it is in my view a historical breakthrough for the following reasons. The battery farming system is the primary egg producing system. It is cheap, automatisized and consumer friendly, as it is more hygienic than free range, with fewer salmonella in the eggs. The egg industry is
also incredibly powerful, economically. In Austria, we are talking about 7,5 million laying hens at any given moment, with as many male 1-day chicks being killed every year. If the ban comes into place in one of the above ways, this will be the single most powerful strike against this industry ever done. About 75% of the commercial production is in battery farms right now. In 4 years basically all of them will have to have changed to barn or free range eggs. Since there is no market for as many eggs with the more expensive production costs for barn or free range eggs, most battery farms will not change but just close
down. Surely, like with the ban on fur farming, many eggs will be imported from battery farm systems, but not as many as are produced now and in any case, as things stand this could only be changed by changing attitudes and not laws.

I believe, in the whole history of the animal rights movement there has not ever been any comparable blow against the animal abuse industry. There has not been any comparable pressure exerted on government for the animal issue than we managed to create in the last months. This huge and powerful egg industry had to bow to an ETHICAL argument. A major brick has been removed from the wall
damming in animals into the system of their oppression. If one such big brick can go, why not others equally.

However, the campaign is not over yet, the law has not even been formulated, and the parliament has not decided. But in all likelihood, after having achieved a ban on fur farming in 1998 and a ban on wild animal circuses in 2005, we will have a ban on battery farming in 2009! The road to victory!

And all political parties know now, the animal rights movement can produce such a momentum on specific issues that it can break any barriers.

United Poultry Concerns, Inc.
PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405-0150
FAX: 757-678-5070

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