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ACT Factory farming ban scales new heights of hubris and hypocrisy

- Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The passing of legislation by the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly to ban so-called factory farming in the ACT scales new heights of hubris and hypocrisy, not seen since local government authorities decided to declare themselves 'nuclear-free zones' during the 1980s and 1990s.

The ban on factory farming in the ACT has been discussed for some years, but has run into difficulties with with issues like the Mutual Recognition Act which prohibits States and Territories banning the importation of products that are produced in accordance with the laws of another State or Territory. Consequently, the ban on caged egg production and the use of sow stalls in piggeries can only apply to piggeries or poultry production in the ACT, and cannot be used to prevent ACT consumers buying pork and poultry products from other states, where these production systems are legal. Thus, this legislation has precisely zero impact, because there is no commercial pork or poultry production in the ACT.

The proponents of the legislation spoke proudly of the ACT joining other jurisdictions like the UK, that have implemented similar bans. What they failed to mention, however, is what happened to the UK pork industry and the consumption of pork in the UK after that ban was implemented in 1999. 

The following graph tells the story. The UK pork industry was decimated, the consumption of pork remained unaffected, and the UK simply imported the bulk of its pork from eastern european nations, that do not have similar restrictions. Hence, all the enactment of the legislation in the UK (and the ACT) achieves is to allow the legislators to bask in hypocritic glory, while all the while its citizens remain absolutely unaffected, and continue capturing the benefits of the cheap food produced using so-called 'factory' farming. 


The hubris comes in when ACT legislators (the ACT legislature governs a population smaller than that governed by the Brisbane City Council) claim that their actions will be 'precedent setting' and force other states of Australia to adopt similar legislation. 

Other states know very well that to enact such legislation would simply mean that the amount of processed ham that is already imported into Australia (70% of processed ham consumed in Australia is imported) from locations that have not banned the use of sow stalls and farrowing crates (despite the claims of major Australian retailers) would increase, and hence the net result would be a further loss of Australian jobs and agricultural production.

The ACT legislature would be better off sticking to roads and rubbish, rather than engaging in such time-wasting, pointless and ineffective legislative action. 

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