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31st March - Consumer fraud set in legislation as Agribusiness hijacks free range market      

Consumer fraud set in legislation as Agribusiness hijacks free range market

31st March 2016

Despite the Australian public taking every opportunity to let the Commonwealth Government know what they expect when they pay a premium for free range eggs, the Government has decided to join with the supermarkets and big agribusiness to legislate for deception. Now we can all be ripped off and the Government has rubber stamped it.                 

Australia’s Consumer Affairs Ministers met in Canberra today having completed a lengthy consultation on a National definition for free range eggs.  Australian consumers have made it quite clear how they expect a free range hen to live.  They want the Model Code to be upheld, with no more than 1500 birds per hectare and unrestricted access to the outdoors.  Humane Society International (HSI) is dumbfounded that they bow to the big industrial producers and the supermarkets who fought to get a huge stocking density of 10,000 hens per hectare over the line.

The submissions to Treasury were overwhelmingly in favour of supporting the Model Code which sets stocking limits of 1500 birds per hectare.  In fact there were only 14 submissions that supported 10,000 birds per hectare and they were all from major egg producers currently running those numbers or supermarkets currently stocking those densities.  The submissions from consumers were totally ignored. 

When the debate on what constitutes a free range egg was taken from the Department of Agriculture and put in the hands of Consumer Affairs Ministers HSI foolishly believed that this was a genuine attempt to bring clarity to the murky world of egg labelling, and through our naivety brought a couple of hundred thousand Australians on this sham ride with us,” said HSI Director Ms Verna Simpson. “I can only apologise to all those Australians who put time and effort into this process, which was no more than a con job perpetrated by Government and big industry.”

Barnaby Joyce made it quite clear a couple of weeks ago in a statement to Stock and Land Journal that he was making the decision and would tell the Ministers what that was on the 31st,  despite the fact that this was no longer his call.  And that is apparently what has happened,” Ms Simpson said. “It will now be the job of organisations like ours, RSPCA and Choice to educate the public on how to find genuine free range eggs and to do as much as we can to get tight definitions in place for descriptors like ‘meaningful access.”

Today the Government has shown its total disregard for the Australian public and Barnaby Joyce has demonstrated that he should not have the job of Deputy Prime Minister.  He now needs to consider all Australians, not just his agribusiness cronies, and this has demonstrated he is incapable of filling the bigger hat he now wears.

HSI will continue to seek the prosecution of all egg producers that lie to the Australian public about their production methods for free range eggs.


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