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Ag-Minister, Tony Burke, denies Australians' rights to choose humane farm products

Government ignores the rights of consumers to shun factory farming horrors

The horrors of mass-produced egg and chicken products were aired last night in Jamie Oliver’s revealing exposé “Jamie's Fowl Dinners”. In addition to the grand-scale cruelty of factory farming methods, what this documentary also revealed was a crisis in mass-produced animal-derived products, as much an issue in Australia as it is elsewhere in the world.

People are horrified when they know the reality

Although the horrified response of audience members exemplified the feelings of people faced with the reality of factory farming, Australian consumers in Australia are currently unable to identify the production methods of the majority of products on their supermarket shelves.

“With the proliferation of vague and meaningless product labels, many of which give no indication of the farming production method used, it is becoming impossible for consumers to make informed choices,” said Verna Simpson, Humane Society International (HSI) Director. “HSI has asked the Government to instigate an urgent review and reform of all legislation relating to the labelling of animal-derived food products, to ensure there is truth in product claims and clarity in product labelling.”

Min for Agriculture ignores cries for less cruelty

The response has been abysmal, with Tony Burke, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, stating that he does not support the labelling of food according to the method of production, and claiming that simply putting the place of origin of foods on labels is enough for consumers to judge suitability based on animal welfare concerns. (Tony Burke's email address is Tony.Burke.MP[AT]

Disrespect for ethical concerns of consumers

“This response from Minister Burke is reproachable and demonstrates a complete lack of respect for consumer rights,” said Ms Simpson. “The government is effectively spitting in the face of consumers who have very real ethical concerns about animal welfare and the production methods of the food they are buying. The approach he is advocating is far too simplistic. It is bewildering how Minister Burke expects consumers to make informed choices with this labelling system that is devoid of any meaningful information on what is in the products they are purchasing, and how they are produced.”

Labelling standards must include animal welfare

HSI is calling for a reform of all federal, state and territory legislation and regulations applying to food labelling, branding and marketing, that must ensure the terms used on product labels are limited and clearly defined, and that these terms are linked to consistent national standards, including those for animal welfare.

From an HSI press release, Sydney, 24 July 2008

Contact: Verna Simpson on 02 9973 1728 or 0416 189482

HSI concentrates on the preservation of endangered animals and ecosystems and works to ensure quality of life for all animals, both domestic and wild. HSI is the largest animal protection not-for-profit organisation in the world, with over 10 million supporters globally and has been established in Australia since 1994.

Humane Society International Inc - Australian Office
PO Box 439 Avalon NSW 2107 Australia
Ph: 02 9973 1728 Fax: 02 9973 1729


Many Australian animal advocates would have supported Rudd's election based on his statement "I cannot abide cruelty" (referring to the live export trade), and (then) Agriculture spokesman Kerry O'Brien's statements about it on Landline.

O'Brien got the sentiments of the Australian community right, and Rudd and Burke have got it so wrong.

As public awareness grows about the appalling cruelty involving intensively farmed animals, Rudd and Burke will come under increasing fire for their hypocrisy - and that's as it should be. Conditions under which battery hens, meat chickens, pigs, and cattle in feedlots, along with the live export trade, bring Australia into disrepute worldwide, and are to be deplored.

If you have ever had hens whose former wretched existence was a space smaller than a A4 sheet of paper, who have never been able to stretch their wings or known sunshine and fresh air, you will understand.

Australians should be demanding "truth in labelling" about how their chicken, eggs, beef and pork have been "produced". and nothing less. If this cruelty were to be carried out upon "companion animals" the perpetrators would be prosecuted. All animals have, as an absolute minimum, the right to the Five Freedoms, identified by the UK Farm Animal Welfare Committee decades ago:-

1. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst - by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.
2. Freedom from Discomfort - by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
3. Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease - by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
4. Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour - by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal's own kind.
5. Freedom from Fear and Distress - by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering”.

Australia is not doing very well at all, is it?

Quite right Stoptac. I was one of those influenced by Kerry O'Brien's pre-election assurances that the Labor Party would not tolerate animal cruelty. To add insult to injury, I received a letter from Mr Rudd's office post election offering the same assurances. These assurances were given after he'd approved the resumption of live trade to Egypt. Anyone who has the slightest regard for animals would be aware of the heinous barbarity perpetrated by the Egyptians on Australia's hapless, export animals.

Rudd is a hypocrite - a callous leader and Australia's reputation, as a "civilised" nation, has indeed been tarnished.

Thanks, 'duped'.

Even though many of us rightly feel badly let down in many regards by the Rudd Government, I still think it would be wrong to draw the conclusion that we should not have chosen them over the Liberal Government last year. If nothing else, at least those who want something better than the astonishingly abysmal Government of John Howard can claim a lot more legitimacy than would otherwise be the case. Furthermore, if Howard had won, the process of disillusionment that we are now going through would have only been put back yet another three years, after which Labor could well have been even more right-wing than it now is.

If Labor does not prove equal to the task before it, then we need to find better alternatives and not merely allow the pendulum to swing back, once again, to the Liberal Party. If we allow that to happen, then we will only back to where we are now in 10 or 15 years time, if we are lucky.

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