When you think of free range hens - what do you picture? Hens surrounded by green grass, dust bathing with space to roam?
This could not be further from the truth.
Let’s start with male chicks in the egg industry. Males are considered an unwanted by-product of the egg industry, as they don’t lay eggs. So at just one day old they are thrown into a giant blender and macerated while fully conscious.
The females escape live maceration, but their fate isn’t any better. They’ll be transported to a so-called free range farm where they will stay until they die onsite or no longer lay enough eggs to be considered worthy of keeping alive.
And how much space do these hens have?
The Federal Government’s free-range egg standard came into force in April 2018, allowing animal agribusiness facilities to pack up to 10,000 hens into one hectare, leaving just one square metre of room for each bird. The standard does not specify that hens must actually go outside to be considered free range: in fact as long as they're provided access to the outdoors, the free range label still applies.
The outdoor space may not provide any shade or shelter from predators, or there may be so few openings on the side of sheds, some hens may never get close enough to an exit to venture outdoors. Drone footage from free range facilities in NSW have shown dry open spaces not used by fearful hens where no grass or covering is provided and with very few openings in the sheds. Footage has also shown that often the doors are never opened to provide outside access and this can be for a variety of reasons- worming, age of hens, suspected weather, or perhaps, dare I say, a day off for farm hands.
Inside these industrialised sheds the floor is often not cleaned until the hens are sent to slaughter, meaning faeces will build up over months. As a result of the ammonia, hens often develop breast blister and “bumble foot”.
The bar has been set so low for a free range hen that when consumers find out the truth, many are unlikely to feel reassured by the label. And if you think that the lives of free-range hens sounds horrific - the lives of chickens in the meat industry are arguably worse.
For meat chickens, there is no legal definition of the term ‘free range’ and standards can vary enormously. Free range broiler chickens are usually the same genetic freaks as factory farmed chickens: they are bred to grow at an unnatural rate, often collapsing under their own body weight. Experts say that meat chickens are in chronic pain for the last days of their lives.
For birds raised under the Free Range Egg & Poultry Australia standards, there can be approximately 15 birds living on floor the size of a small card table.
And while these chickens are expected to have eight hours' access to the outdoors, due to the cramped conditions, it can be difficult for them to make their way outdoors and once they reach a weight where it is painful for them to walk- outdoor access is simply impossible.
When these young birds reach 'slaughter weight', chicken catchers will grab them by their legs, stuff them into crates, and transport them to the slaughterhouse. Here they will be gassed, or dipped into an electrified bath before their throats are cut. If any chickens miss the stun bath, they face the blade fully conscious and ultimately drown in scalding water. There are no free range slaughterhouses. All farmed animals meet the same brutal and terrifying end.
This is the horrifying reality behind the "free range” label. To put it simply “Free Range” is a fraud. It has to be said- if you buy free range anything, you are being duped. There’s no such thing as an ethical egg or ethical animal flesh.
Here’s a nauseating fact: Eating cats and dogs is legal in Australia. Our friends at World Dog Alliance in Hong Kong have reached out to us to help close this loophole and join the majority of other countries around the world that have prohibited eating cats and dogs. The last thing we need is another species of animal on the plate.
Cats and dogs are beloved family members in countless homes across NSW, so you would be forgiven for thinking that it is illegal to eat them.
The reality is that only in South Australia is it illegal to consume cats and dogs. Here in NSW only the sale of cat and dog meat is illegal, meaning that killing these animals at home and eating their flesh is not. This creates a loophole where people can eat these animals provided they are not taking payment.
Our animal protection laws only protect cats and dogs from being killed in an explicitly cruel manner prior to being eaten. It is only when the slaughter caused the animal unnecessary pain or leads to the animal to have a prolonged death, can it constitute an offence under the general cruelty provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 or the Crimes Act 1900.
In other words, even if the RSPCA is made aware of cats and dogs being eaten, unless they can prove cruelty, there is little they can do. There are no laws to stop it.
These loopholes occur across the country and lead to sickening incidents.
In 2015 a skinned Cavalier King Charles spaniel was found at Raby, in Sydney. A vet confirmed the dog had evidence on her head of a captive bolt pistol, a device used for stunning animals prior to slaughter usually in an abattoir, leading to speculation that this incident was linked to an underground market for dog meat.
Just last year in Tasmania the Museum of Old and New Art in Tasmania served up a dish of dead cat as part of an art exhibit.
The fact that this is still allowed to occur is in stark contrast to community expectations.
Each year we see widespread condemnation of the controversial Yulin dog meat festival, or action taken against the continuing sale of dog meat in holiday hotspots. People are horrified to find out that every year millions of dogs and cats are bred, stolen and slaughtered around the world for their flesh.
It has now been a year since I introduced a petition of more than 500 signatures requesting that the Government introduce legislation to completely ban the consumption of cats and dogs in New South Wales. It has been a year, and yet the Government has taken no action.
We cannot wait any longer. It’s time to close the loopholes allowing this brutal underground activity to be carried out, because while it remains, all cats and dogs in NSW will remain at risk.
But consider this too: Finger pointing at other cultures is easy — what’s harder is recognising that no animal wants to suffer and die for our palate. Fish or chicken or pig or dog- they have the same ability to feel pain, the same ability to suffer, and the same capacity to experience joy.
Yes, let’s be outraged by the legal loophole that allows companion animals to be eaten in Australia. Let's push to close that loophole. But let's also extend this compassion to all animals, and leave every species off the plate.
Millions of sharks are still being slaughtered for their fins, suffering prolonged and painful deaths for the sake of a disturbing so-called delicacy—shark fin soup. Finning a shark is not only a death sentence but the process is also extremely cruel. Fishermen slice off sharks' fins while they are still alive, holding them down as they writhe in pain and slowly suffocate on deck before dumping them overboard and leaving the traumatised animals, who are now unable to swim, to sink to the ocean floor. The horrific practice of finning sharks at sea is done exclusively for profit because fishers can bring in more fins than they would be able to if they took the full body of each slaughtered shark. Shark fins are still being sold in Sydney for a hefty $1,000 price tag. In Australia live shark finning is illegal, yet because legislation differs between various States and the Commonwealth it is extremely difficult to monitor fisheries' compliance with shark finning legislation and sharks continue to be at risk of illegal finning.
In 2015 a boat was apprehended in Queensland waters carrying 3,200 shark fins most likely destined for the black market. The fine given for the death of the 641 finned sharks was only $7,750, putting the penalty for each animal at just $12. That is hardly a deterrence for others thinking of engaging in such a horrific practice. In 2017 in New South Wales fisheries officers located and seized 40 kilograms of illegally obtained shark fins, revealing that hundreds of sharks are still being finned in our waters. Yet while live finning may be illegal in Australia our laws continue to support and condone this cruel industry by allowing the export and import of shark fins. In the 2011‑12 financial year Australia exported 178 tonnes of shark fins which is the equivalent of approximately 89,000 shark fins. Australia also imported 41 tonnes of shark fin, which is the equivalent of another 20,500 fins.
Those figures are horrifying not only because they put into perspective how destructive the industry is—Australia ranks sixteenth in the world for imports of shark fin—but because they make clear the number of horrific live finning deaths we are sponsoring, given that we continue to allow the importation of shark fin. Genetic research has revealed that a high proportion of globally traded fins come from species that have serious conservation risks. By importing shark fin from overseas we are directly contributing to the slaughter of those endangered species, given our weak regulations on the labelling or mislabelling of those so‑called products. Keep in mind it is an industry that is not only condemning millions of sharks to cruel and traumatic deaths but is also destroying our oceans. It is well‑recognised among experts that the international shark fin trade is responsible for the decline in shark populations. Sharks are especially vulnerable to overfishing because of their slow growth and relatively low rates of reproduction.
It is no wonder that nearly one‑third of oceanic sharks are listed as threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Sharks, which are dying in their millions, are apex predators. It is they who keep the critical balance of our oceans in check. Without them delicate ocean ecosystems will suffer and are already suffering unpredictable and devastating consequences, including the loss of marine diversity and declining food sources for scavengers. With sharks continuing to die in their millions and the future of our oceans at stake, we cannot continue to support this cruel and inhumane industry. It is time Australia took action to address the worldwide decline in sharks caused by the devastating shark fin trade. We must ban the import and export of shark fins. We must legislate and enforce tougher penalties for those who illegally kill for shark fins. We must make it an offence to sell food containing shark fins in New South Wales.
This past Sunday was “Ban Live Exports International Awareness Day.”
Despite COVID-19 restrictions, thousands of people banded together online to voice their opposition to this cruel industry, which tortures and kills millions of animals every year.
Australia’s continued involvement in the live export industry is a national and international embarrassment. The views of the community are clear. 75% of Australians want to stop the live animal export trade.
This is because they have seen expose after expose, showing the shocking conditions in which sheep and cattle are kept on these ships. They have seen how animals are packed so tightly they can’t lie down and rest, or access food and water. They have seen animals suffering from extreme heat, exhaustion, rough seas, poor ventilation, and surrounded by millions of litres of untreated waste. They know that many of these animals will die along the way from heat stress, broken bones, dehydration and other illnesses -- while the “lucky” survivors are painfully slaughtered when they arrive at their destination.
For just a moment, put yourself in these animals‘ position. Imagine it was you on one of these ships, on your way to die. It is terrifying on a scale that is hard to comprehend. And yet, in Australia, it is entirely legal to do this to sentient animals that feel pain and suffering in the same way we do.
A few weeks ago, six crew members on a live export ship in Fremantle tested positive for coronavirus. This meant a planned shipment of 50,000 sheep to Kuwait was delayed.
In response, the exporter – who already has a notorious record on animal welfare – submitted an application to the Government to export the sheep on a delayed timeframe, departing after 1 June.
Just 2.5 months ago, the Government introduced regulations banning live export ships from travelling to the Middle East after 1 June, recognising that Northern Hemisphere summer is the hottest and most dangerous time for animals to travel.
After initially rejecting the application for an exemption, the Government back flipped 10 days later, happy to break their own rules and risk many of these 50,000 sheep being boiled alive in the blistering heat.
A last minute injunction sought by Animals Australia was sadly unsuccessful.
This is truly disgusting conduct from a Government that has shown time and time again that it will always put profit above the suffering of a living being.
But the people of Australia will not stop fighting for these animals. The Animal justice Party will not stop fighting for these animals. To every single animal forced into the brutal live export trade: I see you, I hear you, and I will continue to fight for you.
Live Animal Export will end. Our fight is to make that sooner rather than later.
Fish farming is animal cruelty
Imagine being imprisoned in a tiny space with hundreds of others, packed together so tightly that you can barely move, struggling as others attack you and parasites eat away at your flesh. Imagine if the only way you can escape this torture is when you are gutted alive or left to slowly suffocate to death. This is the reality for fish in intensive fish farms, one of the most overlooked forms of animal cruelty. Fish feel pain, they are self-aware, they remember, they build relationships and exhibit emotional responses. Deliberately inflicting pain and suffering on these animals is inexcusable. For too long the suffering of these sentient animals has gone unnoticed by governments all around the world. The Animal Justice Party is going to change that.Posted by Emma Hurst - Animal Justice Party MP on Wednesday, July 1, 2020
Slaughterhouse Workers Have PTSD
3 animals per second, over 10,000 per hour - that’s how many animals are killed in abattoirs across Australia, day in, day out. And it’s not just animals that suffer – abattoir workers do too. I’ve seen the undercover footage in slaughterhouses – of animals beaten, punched, kicked, ridden, smashed with hammers, screaming as they are gassed, or improperly stunned and still conscious when their throats are slit- I’ve seen it all. But it is too simple to blame the slaughterhouse workers. We need to recognise the psychological toll for those working in these places. Research has linked ‘slaughter work’ to a variety of mental health issues including PTSD and the lesser-known PITS (perpetration-induced traumatic stress). It’s also connected to increased crime rates, domestic abuse, and substance abuse. But the solution is simple – every time someone buys flesh they are funding an industry that is cruel to animals, and that exploits vulnerable workers. If you want to end violence- don’t buy it. #GoVeganPosted by Emma Hurst - Animal Justice Party MP on Thursday, July 2, 2020
Frankenstein is alive- in the animal agribusiness industry
Frankenstein is alive- the chicken 'meat' agribusiness industry has bred chickens to grow so fast that they are in chronic pain for the last days of their lives. Every year 26 million chickens will die before they are trucked off to slaughter from illness, trauma or starvation because their bodies are so large and painful, they can't even move to reach food or water. Every day we are in parliament we make it our mission to tell the stories of the billions of animals suffering behind closed doors. Many of the decision-makers in our state have never heard of these atrocities before. We will continue to shine a light.Posted by Emma Hurst - Animal Justice Party MP on Thursday, June 18, 2020
Dead, Dying, Diseased, Disabled: The Ugly Truth of the 'Pet' Food Industry
What you may be unknowingly feeding your fur baby will shock you. 4D meat comes from animals who arrive at the slaughterhouse Dead, Dying, Diseased or Disabled - and many commercial 'pet' food brands contain 4D meat. Despite a number of incidents in Australia where animals have become seriously sick or died from consuming contaminated food, there remains a serious lack of industry regulation. Truth is, the ‘pet’ food industry causes harm to both farm and companion animals alike. But what if we don’t have to kill one animal to feed another? The future of the companion animal food industry is cell-based meats mixed with high quality and well researched vegan alternatives. I am looking forward to seeing developments in clean meats that can be fed to carnivorous or omnivorous animals we share our lives with – but I know this is a heavily debated topic- what are your thoughts?Posted by Emma Hurst - Animal Justice Party MP on Thursday, June 25, 2020
We can end Live Export
The live animal export industry regulator has granted an exemption for an exporter to travel in the blistering heat that could see Australian sheep cooked alive. Here in NSW we have been alerted to a new atrocity- with the Western Sydney Airport opening in 2026, the Live Export industry could expand in NSW with air travel. I know we are all feeling helpless. I know it feels like it couldn’t get any worse. But history shows us that the Government’s brutal and continued support for a cruel and heinous industry will be its undoing. With each vile decision to ignore animal suffering and animal sentience, the industry and government lose the trust of the people. We won’t just expose this industry- we will end it. Enough. #BanLiveExportPosted by Emma Hurst - Animal Justice Party MP on Tuesday, June 16, 2020