Sunday, July 17, 2016
Free range debate should be about much more than animal welfare
The free range egg debate has been hijacked by animal welfare activists – and academic researchers are putting all their efforts into demonstrating that low stocking densities don't necessarily produce better welfare outcomes. We believe that the focus should be on land sustainability. Intensive systems are more likely to lead to land degredation and pollution – limiting the life of any farming venture and the viability of the land. What seems to be ignored is that a fully grown hen produces about half a metre of manure a year – so 10,000 hens per hectare deposit 5000 cubic metres of manure on each hectare of land. The excessive nutrient load is likely to transform the farm into an unproductive wasteland. Unfortunately free range farmers were unable to agree on a cohesive approach and left the lobbying of politicians and bureaucrats to the industrial-scale egg producers, grocers and animal welfare groups. So free range farmers really only have themselves to blame for the current mess.