Austrian Parliament Bans Battery Cages
May 27, 2004 Austria
In an historic vote on Thursday May 27, all members of the Austrian Parliament voted to ban battery-hen keeping and to put animal protection into the country's constitution. Facing down opposition from the Austrian Farm Federation, the Austrian parliament voted that under the new law, no new battery-hen facilities may be built after December 31, 2005. As of January 1, 2009, all conventional battery farms must close, and effective January 1, 2020, all "enriched" cages (cages stuffed with dollhouse chicken furniture and chickens) must close. Similarly, Germany plans to phase out battery-caging of hens by the end of 2006, and in a related good move for chickens in March, Hungary's parliament banned cockfighting. Switzerland effectively banned battery cages for hens in 1981 by developing standards that couldn't be met by battery cages. In the European Union, standard battery-cages must close by January 1, 2013; however the European Council (EC) will still allow enriched-cage battery operations - a move that European animal protectionists are challenging.
Dr. Martin Balluch and the VGT were instrumental in the Austrian battery cage ban and this is his account of the campaign to ban battery farming in Austria, written just before the ban was voted in:
Battery farming has been an issue for a long time. It is, especially in schools, the prime example of animal abuse in the agricultural industry. Hence, the intensive campaign recounted shortly is actually based on decades of work to publish the plight of chickens in battery farms.
On 15th July 2003, we rescued 7 hens openly from a battery farm in Lower Austria. We reported the farm because of breaches of the law and the 7 hens were brought to the emergency veterinary clinic. 1 died soon after of her conditions.
On 25th March 2003, we occupied the offices of the governor of Lower Austria and displayed dead hens of the same battery farm where the hens had been liberated from in the office. The activists, who were chained to office furniture, did not leave until the governor - 5 hours later - agreed to meet them and talk about a ban on battery farming. During this debate the activists produced pictures of the conditions in the battery farm.
From 15th to 30th July 2003, 3 teams of activists visited pre-chosen battery farms across the country each night and filmed the evidence. 48 farms were visited. These farms are the largest in Austria and are keeping together 40% of all battery chickens.
The EC has made regulations in 1999, according to which from 1st Jan 2003 onwards there are at most 4 battery chickens allowed in each cage of typical Austrian cage size. We found that 79% of the battery farms we had visited, were stocked illegally with at least 5 or even 6 hens per cage. A massive 91% of farms had at least partly overstocked. 71% of farms had very bad hygienic conditions and 47% had dead chickens in the cages. 100% of the farms had ill and dying birds in the cages.
We put the evidence together in form of photos and videos and sent it off to the authorities reporting all the farms. We went public with those findings
on Monday 4th August 2003. A weekly newspaper journalist had gone in a battery farm with us and published a 3-page super article. Also, 2 radio stations, 2 TV stations, 2 further weekly newspapers and 2 daily newspapers reported on it, positively. The wave has gone so high that I was phoned by representatives of the governor of the largest Austrian province with the most battery farms, and was asked to come to talk about the situation on the following day.
We made it clear: our demands are that battery farms get banned and that an "animal solicitor" is put in place, who can take up court cases for animals.
On Thursday to Friday 31st July to 1st August 2003, we did the next open rescue of 9 battery chickens. We went with a TV crew to a battery farm and rescued 5 chickens out of illegally cramped conditions. The chickens were severly sick. When we saw 4 living chickens outside the cages in the part of the building, where they store the chicken shit, we rescued them 4 too. So, we rescued altogether 9 chickens. We have reported the farm to the autorities together with video proof for their breaches of the law.
We drove with those chickens in the night together with the TV crew to a vet, who said that the chickens would have died had we not saved them. Then we put them in a sanctuary.
The TV showed the whole thing on Monday 4th August 2003 at 6:45 pm. They had so many reactions that on the following day they showed a follow up at 6:45 pm again. They also interviewed the owner who said he loves chickens and he is an animal friend. They also interviewed me again and the spokesperson of the governor, who said that nothing will change.
Soon after we started daily demos showing our evidence to the public on the streets and pushed the issue further. Our demand is a ban on keeping hens in cages altogether, never mind how enriched or big those cages are. Often there is a misunderstanding: the EC will only ban the old cages by 2013, and then still allow so called enriched cages, which are basically not bigger, but have scratch material, a sitting stick and a nest in them. We do not consider that any improvement whatsoever.
The Conservative party in government issued a statement saying they will only comply to the EC regulations, and not ban battery farming. So we tried to keep the pressure up: There was a letter writing campaign against battery farms to government and to the agricultural minister. They replied things are still in discussion, no decision is yet taken.
We spoke to the Greens and the social democrats, who both fully support a ban on battery farming. Together, at the moment, they have 49% of MPs. The right-wing freedom party is divided on the issue. 3 experts were consulted by government on the issue. I spoke to 2 of them. Both fully agree with us that a complete ban on battery farming is necessary. They said that they have spoken to the prime minister, and he agrees, but is under pressure from the farming community. The experts said that they have given the government a paper stating their ideas of minimum requirements for animal husbandry, among which is a ban on keeping hens in cages.
After having been found guilty on 9th February 2004 of "stealing" hens from a battery farm in July 2003, a TV team interviewed me and tried to interview the judge, but she refused. However, they interviewed the head of the district court, showed him the video of the injured birds, which the judge had not allowed as proof in court, and was asked if he saw that they were injured. He replied that they were, but he could not be sure this film was made at the farm in question. Then the TV team interviewed people on the streets showing them the film, and they all were deeply shocked and said the judge must have been pribed and the ruling was outrageous. This film was shown on 16th Feb 2004 at 6:30 pm on Austrian state TV in a youth program! Lots of good battery farm footage was shown and I had ample opportunity to say that battery farming must be banned!
I would love to know what the bloody judge is saying now.
In the meantime, we prepared a good appeal, asking for a re-trial.
I contacted the by far largest and most influential daily newspaper in Austria, whether they could support our cause. They actually have a specific department only dealing with animal issues. They agreed to intervene and met the PM to pressure for a ban, in their words.
Two radio stations interviewed me on the issue after our press release that the government does not intend to ban battery farming, and the largest weekly newspaper published an article on it in their next issue.
A sponsor financed an advert in all daily newspapers apart from one (which refused). The advert shows battery chickens in a cage bleeding on their claws, and said as much as battery farming is animal abuse and the government has to ban it now.
The 2 party-government has met on 2 consecutive Tuesdays to get an agreement on the issue, but failed. The PM offered to introduce the EC-regulation of enriched cages in 2009 (instead of 2013) and called that in a press release a ban on battery farming.
A private TV station reported 5 minutes in their prime time news and showed footage we had provided and an interview with me. But, the best of all, the biggest private national radio station had me live on air on Monday 23rd February 2004 from 12am to 2pm (2 hours!) debating the issue with callers, one of which was a spokesperson of the Conservative party. We (many callers and I) had a field day and made our point very forcefully, I believe.
On Wednesday 25th February 2004 we met the social democrats in Parliament and they said they unreservedly and fully support us on the issue. They did send out press releases in support of a ban. Greens and social democrats, together 49% of MPs, are fully behind us on the issue.
On Thursday 26th February 2004, we did a press conference together with a scientist from an institute for social sciences, IFES, who had done a scientific poll on the issue on our behalf. The result was:
- 86% of Austrians are in favour of a BAN on battery farming
- 7% are against such a ban
- 3% are undecided
- 4% have no opinion
Incidentally, we also found that:
- 88% want a new and modern animal protection law
- 76% want animal protection in the constitution
- 71% want an institution acting on behalf of animals in court
- 77% want a ban on slatted floor without bedding for cattle and pigs
- 91% want no increase in broiler density
- 88% want a ban on castration and clipping by farmers without anesthesia
The press conference was very well attended. We used a power point presentation to show facts and figures and showed a video with dvd and beamer on a screen. I feel the journalists were very impressed, as much by the impressively gruesome films we showed (all films we took in Austria in the last 2 years in factory farms) as by the professional presentation we offered. We had maps for all journalists with facts and figures on paper and digitally on CD, 15 fotos from inside factory farms in Austria in the last 2 years depicting the animal abuses in question, as well as a DVD with 15 minutes film.
At least 7 newspapers reported on it, as well as the press agency, which had sent out a release. And state TV brought the story at noon in the main news, interviews as well as parts of the film! 5 Conservatives had attended the press conference, obviously to report back to HQ on our progress. In 2 provinces, there were provincial elections on 7th March 2004. We started anti-Conservative party demos referring to their refusal to ban battery farming, with large banners, lots of megaphone talk and billions of leaflets. The election campaign talks were disrupted on at least 3 occasions. The governor, while attending a rally for himself, was personally handed a leaflet and hassled. The Conservatives were getting really nervous.
We also had an 8 hour demo in the city centre of Vienna. On our website, www.vgt.at, on the front page, one can send out a protest email to the PM asking for a ban with one mouse click (and leaving your name, if you wish).
Before the provincial elections on 7th March 2004, we increased the demos in the 2 election provinces. In Salzburg, since our press conference, demos were held on 26th Feb, 28th Feb, 1st March, 4th March, 5th March and 6th March. Mostly, rallies of the Conservatives, who are in power and the only party opposing the ban, were disrupted. On 26th Feb, activists ran on the stage of an all-party talk in front of the media and unfolded banners. On Saturday 6th March, a demo was held through the town of Salzburg. Later a giant banner was unfolded on the cliff overseeing the city, and a second one on a bridge in the town centre. The latter was hanging for 2 hours.
In Carinthia, the second election province, we had a demo through the capital, Klagenfurt, on Friday 5th March 2004. A Conservative rally was disrupted on 2 occasions. The day ended with us doing a demo on a central square talking with the megaphone, when Conervatives, lead by 2 provincial Conservative MPs, attacked our demo, ripped the banner, took the megaphone and hit me in the face. The guy, who hit me, was actually the agricultural spokesman of the Carinthian Conservatives. Luckily, on such occasions we are well organized. We took pictures of the attack via mobile phone, SMSed them through to our office in Vienna, where somebody wrote a press release, and within 1 hour of the attack, all national and regional media were informed. Also, the other parties got the information straight away. The attackers, who were not known to me, where identified from the pictures via internet, and their names were already mentioned in the release. The 3 major newspapers of the province interviewed me and published super big articles on the attack next morning - the day of the election! National newspapers have also covered the story. We also reported the incident to the state prosecutor. On Saturday 6th March, activists distributed leaflets far and wide.
Obviously, in a number of other major cities outside the election provinces, notably Innsbruck, Linz and Vienna, demos against the Conservatives and for a new animal protection law to ban battery farming were held.
Many media kept the story up. A very good article against the Conservatives and in favour of a battery farm ban appeared in a Viennese progressive magazine. But, most interestingly, Austrias by far biggest daily newspaper had a cartoon showing the PM in a battery cage with chickens, densely packed, saying "I wish I was a chicken".
The election results were devastating for the Conservatives..
Salzburg: The provincial governor, until then Conservative, lost his majority to the Social Democrats. The latter have now 45 % compared to his 38 %. A major election loss by the Conservatives!
Carinthia: The Conservative party, before the election 20% of the votes, have been reduced to 11%! That means their votes have been halved!!
Incidentally, the Greens won significantly everywhere.
On 17th March 2004 the government came together to discuss a battery farm ban and a potential new animal protection law. As a result they announced that battery farming would be banned by 2009. That, however, was just a dirty trick, in reality they meant that the enriched cages will be introduced in 2009 instead of 2013 as it is EU-wide. Some newspapers carried the government story in their headlines, others we managed to inform quickly enough and they had opposite headlines. The largest daily newspaper read on the front line: this government proposal is not acceptable. Inside they informed on the trick the government was trying to make.
Meanwhile, we continued daily demos on the issue nationwide.
A progressive weekly magazine had a big interview with one of the two most famous German philosophers, Peter Sloterdijk, which was almost entirely devoted to the animal issue. I had the opportunity to inform him on the details of the battery farming problem in Austria before the interview. The philosopher sided fully with us and had very sharp words against the government. He had had a meeting with the minister for health and women, who will be responsible for animal protection, and reported that she is pretty dumb and anti-intellectual and had shown her disregard of animal suffering by asking him what he dislikes in battery farming. He made a very big deal out of this in the interview, saying that such cold-hearted apparatchicks should not govern the country.
On Friday the 26th March 2004, we ran a full page advert in a daily newspaper urging the PM to do a ban on battery farming. The newspaper had reduced the price for this advert to 15% of their normal price. The social democrats copied the advert and put it onto the desks of all Conservative MPs in Parliament. They also did a press release commenting on it to give it maximum impact.
I had a meeting with a government advizer on 11th March on the issue and convinced him that a battery farm ban is necessary and possible. He said he will convey this to the PM and try to get him to intervene and ban it.
I had a meeting with the right hand of the health and women minister on the 24th March on the issue. In 2 hours I could present our points why the ban is so important and how we can achieve it. The minister official suggested we should stop our permanent demos, also outside his ministry, as they are not "fair". But the atmosphere stayed constructive. He said he does not see much chance for a complete ban, does think, though, that the enriched cages will not be economically viable and lead to an end of battery farming eventually anyway.
On Friday 26th March 2004, the newly appointed Parliamentary committee to debate a new animal protection law and a battery farm ban has met for the first time. They consist of 5 Conservatives, 4 Social Democrats, 1 Liberal and 1 Green,together with a number of experts. The decisive meeting, when the battery farm ban will be the only issue to be debated, was scheduled to the 20th April.
On 26th March 2004, the German ministers of agriculture of the German provinces met and decided against enriched cages, ie to stick to their complete ban of battery farming. Germany wants to develop barn eggs in small voliere systems, whatever that may mean.
We kept up our daily demos in Vienna, as well as weekly demos in other cities, where we show our new video on battery farming and factory farming in Austria in general on a large screen on the streets. Additionally, we had on the 15th March a demo outside the agricultural ministry, on the 22nd March outside the ministry of health, on the 6th April outside the agricultural ministry again and on 14th April outside the Conservative party HQ in Vienna.
On 30th March, I met a representative of the agricultural ministry. The opinion of these people is beyond imagination. Animals cannot suffer other than physical pain, so if you give them enough food and warmth and keep them without pain, everything is fine. Battery farming is necessary for cheap egg production in their opinion, and they are not willing to change that a bit. If it was not clear before, now we know who our enemy is.
We did a press conference on battery farming on 30th March. It was not well attended, to say the truth, but it did lead to at least one report in a conservative pro-government newspaper, which did stick to the facts.
Since the Easter weekend, a number of placards have turned up all across Austria. There are 5 different versions, with the main message being that the conservative party does not care about animals, or that the conservative party wants to keep hens in battery farm. This flyposting intensified in the next days and weeks.
A number of articles in different media have been achieved through personal contact with well-minded journalists, which kept the public interest focused.
T-shirts were produced with anti-battery farming graphic pictures and message, which activists took into supermarkets to the battery farm egg shelves to protest. The Green Party did also an anti-battery farm demo with our demo material on 7th April in Vienna city centre.
On 9th April 2004, at 6 am about 35 activists went to the battery farm "Winkler"in the city of Salzburg. Some activists went into the farm and liberated 37 chickens. Others built an outside enclosure with 10 square metres per hen and 3 shelters. The 37 hens were then put into this enclosure. Then activists occupied the farm, also on the roof, and large banners were displayed. A TV-team was with us in the morning and filmed everything and broadcast it in their main news in the evening (PRO 7 Austria Top News). 5 radio stations interviewed me during our occupation, and another local TV team arrived for their evening news. At least 3 newspapers reported too. The owner arrived but left immediately to avoid confrontation. Then we went together with the media to her house to ask her, but she locked herself in and refused to answer the door. Only her farmhand came and said she cannot be contacted. But she did send us the police, who wanted to take IDs, but when people refused, they did not act. The activists, who had broken in, where long gone by then. Police found that no damage had been done to the battery farm and left soon after. When the media interest had died down, and the owner was not contactable, we took the 37 chickens, dismantled the outside enclosure and brought the chickens to 3 nearby shelters, where they can live happily ever after.
The date for the parliamentary-debate of the battery farm ban was suddenly moved from the 20th to the 27th of April. On 15th April, a weekly magazine published a debate between me and the agricultural minister, albeit this debate was only done on the phone, arranged by the journalist. I critisized the law, he only wanted to brand me and animal rights as radical.
On 15th April also, the by far biggest weekly magazine in Austria arranged a debate between the head of the government commission on the animal issue, the battery farmer of Austria's largest battery farm (450.000 hens), the agricultural minister and me. The commission spokeswoman critisized the government but was very held back in her arguments. The battery farmer was shocked to see me on the table and said I belong in prison and not here. He would have refused to come had he known I was here, he said. He claimed to love his birds and that his way of keeping them is in their best interest. The minister doubted that I as a vegan are in a position to debate the keeping of farm animals. He said consumers should decide, not the law. I said that only vegans can really represent the animals' interests, because only they have not their own interests in the animals, i.e. they do not suffer a collision of interests between theirs and those of the animals. We had broken into 5 battery farms owned by the battery farmer on the table and had brought him to court, in answer he had brought charges against me, so the two of us were not too friendly with each other. But eventually, it became a hot debate between the minister and me on battery farming. The whole thing lasted 2 hours and was published on 6th May.
On 24th April, we had our 54th demo for a battery farm ban since 21st February, when we had started with the demo campaign. In our latest siege of the ministry of agriculture on Wednesday 21st, the minister actually came out and confronted the activists. He claimed we should not protest outside his ministry, as he is not in the position to ban battery farming, only the government can do that.
Now the flyposting was running on an all time high. So far, 1500 placards had been put up everywhere. 2 people were arrested while flyposting, quite a new police tactic. It has not been known that ever anybody has been arrested for such an offence. Also, as there are presidential elections on 25th April, the Conservatives have started paying watch groups to guard their placards and chase activists putting up anti-conservative posters. A number of confrontations were had, but all went ok, i.e. all activists escaped unharmed.
For the presidential elections, we had asked all candidates on their opinion on battery farming and the animal issue. The conservative candidate was the only one trying to evade answering our questions. She said she finds the law as it is sufficient. We put as much energy as possible into spreading this view, through demos and posters and leafletting etc. She reacted on Sunday 19th by putting out a press release saying that the law, indeed, should be tightened. Obviously she felt the pressure, although she did not want to say exactly in which way the law should be tightened. On 23rd pril, activists tried to disrupt her last public rally before the elections. Police intervened, but some disruption was achieved and our banners were visible to everybody.
On 23rd April, we succeeded in our biggest coup as yet. On 22nd April, the agricultural chamber had organized a visit with experts to the first Austrian battery farm with enriched cages. Their press release said how wonderful this farm is, and what a compromise, with happy healthy birds. As it happened, in the night after this visit, and BEFORE their press release went out, activists visited the very same farm in the night and got good footage of photos and videos of the farm and its awful conditions, of dead rotting birds in the cages and of birds without feathers. So, we were in the position to counter their press release immediately with our own press release that showed pictures of the very same farm which were only 5 hours old!! They must have been steaming, as well as wondering where in their midst the whistle blower might be!!
The candidate for the Conservatives running for presidency did a press conference on Friday 23rd April. On the conference, she was supported by a number of famous people, among them a writer who asked to say something at the end. As a social democrat supporting a conservative candidate, she said, I have a wish free: ban battery farming! Some daily newspapers ran this story on page 4 giving it quite some air. The candidate was described as being surprised by this demand.
The conservative candidate had published an article in a daily newspaper saying that the animal laws should be tightened, without specifying how. On 24th April, the day before the election, she did another press release demanding an end to battery farming! It is obvious that all events must have put great pressure on her to do this sort of thing as her last press release before the election.
On the election, the social democrat candidate won the presidency with 53% of the votes - a huge loss by the conservatives.
On 27th April, the parliamentary committee met to discuss a ban on battery farming. For that occasion, firstly, we held a demo outside parliament for 11 hours. Thousands of leaflets were distributed and the conservative party was blamed for blocking advances on animal protection. Also, today our half-page appeal to the prime minister to ban battery farming signed by 78 prominent Austrians from science and arts appeared, paid and signed by the 6 largest national animal rights/welfare groups in Austria.
At 9:15 am I had an appointment inside parliament with the conservative party delegation to hand in 10.000 signatures we had collected on the streets since end of February against the enriched cages proposal of the government and for a ban on battery farming as well as other progress in the new animal protection law. State TV was arranged to cover the handing over of the petition. But at the same time, we had prepared a number of big sized photographs of the first Austrian enriched cages battery farm showing the awful conditions there, as well as on a real size enriched cage, which we had brought with us to show what enriched cages looked like. The conservatives were absolutely enraged, shouted at me, calling me a liar and doing other stuff rather irrational. They even sent out a press release immediately, which portrayed me in person, I was named, as someone, who does not speak truthfully, without actually explaining what my lies supposed to be. The Greens answered the press release and defended me. We also did a press release with pictures of the (verbal) attackers plus photos and the cage model of the enriched cage system.
The conservatives behaved increasingly hysterical, especially when the green party committee member took our cage and the fotografs with her into the meeting. While the TV team was interviewing me, in the houses of parliament, the president of the farmers union as well as a spokesman from the agricultural ministry came and actually behaved physically threatening. Then they called the parliamentary guards, who removed me and the film team. We had to finish the interview outside. This showdown with the Conservatives was indeed reported on TV, on 2 consecutive days. The report was very sympathetic to our cause and made a strong case for a battery farm ban.
It is obvious that the pressure is really getting to them. Now the conservatives have lost the last 3 elections (provincial and presidential), but are still in government at least for 2 years. Still, they start to seriously feel the heat. The strategy to attack only the leading party in government and not their junior partner paid once again off today: the freedom party, junior governmental partner, sided with us and publicly said they also want a complete battery farm ban!
On 28th April I was on a panel in Parliament debating the battery farm ban. All politicians (none of them Conservative, though) supported a ban. The representative of the junior partner in government said he was in favour of a ban, but he does understand that the government is in a difficult position on the issue. The minister of social affairs also was on the panel and supported the ban fully.
On 29th April I gave a public talk in the heart of the battery farming and factory farming industry. About 120 people attended my talk, of whom about 40 were factory farmers. Some of the 40 were battery farmers, whose farms had been broken into and reported for breaches of regulations by us. The atmosphere was correspondingly dense, the debate was very loud and aggressive and lasted till well past midnight. Many people in the audience defended very angrily our battery farm campaign, surely the majority. The main arguments for battery farming were economic pressure, hygiene and low mortality (the latter being plane wrong). The main charges against me were I was a criminal breaking into their farms and I was like the mafia, forcing them to change with the threat of terrorizing them. 2 regional newspapers reported on the talk objectively with lots of pictures and clearly saying that there was a problem that was not going to go away by itself.
On 30th April was the second committee meeting on the issue in parliament. I was invited in by the opposition and informed on what the score of the debate was. We demonstrated outside parliament the whole day from 7 am onwards.
On 4th May we got the TV and opposition politicians to visit a barn egg voliere system producer, who keeps the hens on 3 levels stuffing a shed to up to 50% of what a battery farm shed of the same size would hold. That clearly proves that the end of battery farming would not mean the end of mass egg production and egg factory farming. Bad as it sounds, this is a very good argument for banning battery farming in the eyes of politicians: cheap, albeit not as cheap, mass production is still possible, hence barn eggs sounds like a compromise.
Conservatives were hoping by not participating to keep the visit out of the media, but prime time state TV news reported on it as the second item on the national news. The issue of enriched cages was debated and opposition politicians rejected it fully and spoke, indeed, of the compromise barn eggs.
The social democratic opposition has told me that the animal abusers have organized phone-in days against them, hassling them all day long on the issue of battery farming and that a ban would mean the bankruptcy of 350 families.
On the other hand, unofficial debates on the issue have started between government and main opposition party. 2 meetings have been had and, so I am told, the signs INDEED INDICATE that a battery farm ban might be imminent. 2 further unofficial meetings next week have already been agreed upon. The next and last official committee meeting in parliament will be on 11th May. By then, supposedly, the issue should be decided. On 10th May, just before, the social democrats will do their press conference on the issue to state in public what they demand of government.
Up until the 14th May, we had held altogether 68 demos against battery farming since the end of February.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, automatic 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 in Austria 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.
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