Battery cages, duck shooting, whips – RSPCA Vic calls time on big animal welfare issues

RSPCA Victoria today revealed six new “big ticket” goals to guide its advocacy work over the next year, targeting welfare improvements for wildlife, domestic, farmed and racing animals:

1. End duck shooting in Victoria

2. Ban battery cages in Victoria

3. Drive significant welfare improvements across the three racing codes

4. Desex all owned and semi-owned cats in Victoria

5. Influence wildlife legislation reform in Victoria

6. Influence animal welfare legislation reform in Victoria.

RSPCA Victoria CEO Dr Liz Walker said the six goals target some of the biggest issues in animal welfare today and aim to drive positive changes to improve the lives of animals.

“RSPCA Victoria’s advocacy goals focus on areas that need real change, such as the continued use of battery cages to house layer hens, duck shooting in Victoria, the need for stronger legislation to protect wildlife, Victoria’s cat overpopulation problem and the need to improve the welfare of racing horses and greyhounds,” said Dr Walker.

“In Victoria we are constantly advocating but much of our work happens behind closed doors directly with decision makers, government and industry – we want to let Victorians know what we’re working toward because we know people care about animal welfare and want it to improve.”

Currently there are over 10 million hens – half the egg laying hens in Australia – in battery cages, despite them being banned in the UK and New Zealand. Many Australians now buy cage-free eggs but around half the eggs produced nationally are from caged hens and go into food service and packaged foods. The RSPCA is advocating for a phase-out of battery cages as part of the current review of the Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Poultry.

“The evidence is clear that hens can’t have good welfare when housed in battery cages – we’re advocating to ensure a phase out starts to happen in Australia so we can improve the lives of millions of hens,” said Dr Walker.

Victoria’s cat overpopulation problem is another big focus this year. Presently 30% of the estimated 3.3 million cats in Australia are not desexed. Cats can breed quickly and from just four months old, resulting in unplanned litters, causing a cat overpopulation which impacts the welfare of cats and wildlife.

“This year, we’ve set ourselves the ambitious goal of desexing all owned and semi-owned cats in Victoria to reduce the cat population and the pressure on pounds, shelters, the broader community and the environment,” said Dr Walker. RSPCA Victoria will continue working to end duck shooting in Victoria, saying the practice causes unnecessary injury, pain, suffering, distress and death to waterbirds. RSPCA Victoria was disappointed the 2021 season went ahead after it recommended a cancellation.

“While there have been some positive indicators change may be coming, we’d like to see a definite move by the Victorian Government to end cruel duck shooting this year,” said Dr Walker.

RSPCA Victoria will continue advocating directly with peak racing bodies and the government to improve the lives of animals involved in thoroughbred, harness and greyhound racing. The welfare of animals used in racing is paramount and this includes before, during and after their racing careers. “We will continue to advocate for reform in horse racing, relating to whip use, injuries, fatalities, wastage and life post-racing to ensure these animals have lives worth living after their racing careers end. We also hope that a horse traceability register will address some of these concerns.

“The greyhound racing industry has worked to improve the welfare of racing dogs in recent years, including planning and implementing track safety initiatives to reduce injuries. There is still work to be done and we will continue to work with them to further improve the welfare of greyhounds at all life stages.

Finally, RSPCA Victoria will seek to influence the reform of key pieces of animal welfare legislation in Victoria.

RSPCA Victoria recently recommended 16 significant changes be made to the Wildlife Act 1975 to reflect a more modern approach to the welfare of wildlife. Additionally, RSPCA Victoria is providing input to help draft a new, modern animal welfare act to replace Victoria’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986.

“Animals positively impact our lives, and we need to ensure they have good welfare and lives that are worth living,” said Dr Walker.

“RSPCA Victoria has been caring for and protecting animals for 150 years and we will continue to advocate to improve the welfare of the millions of animals and end animal cruelty.”

RSPCA Victoria is running a free webinar for anybody interested in hearing more about its advocacy work on Friday 30th July. Attendees will have the opportunity to ask live questions of Dr Liz Walker and other experts from RSPCA Victoria. Register here to attend.

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