Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced yesterday the Labor Government will introduce a tax on the consumption of hens by foxes.
“By making hen consumption more expensive, this policy will make alternative food sources relatively cheaper,” said Gillard.
From 2015, Australia will have a hen consumption trading scheme, in which foxes will be able to buy and sell rights to eat hens.
The scheme aims to cut hen consumption by 5% by 2020.
“A market mechanism is the most cost-effective way to reduce hen consumption,” said Gillard.
All her economic advisers agreed, rejecting demands by animal rights groups that the market mechanism must be complemented by other measures including fox-proof fences around poultry farms.
“We look forward to working very closely with foxes and other stakeholders over the coming months to ensure we reduce hen consumption at the lowest possible cost and while maintaining the competitiveness of our fox industry,” said Hen Minister Greg Combet.
Reaction from foxes
The pro-hen industry coalition, the Global Organization of Businesses for Bantam Liberation and Emancipation (GOBBLE), cautiously welcomed the announcement.
“We will work with the government to achieve a price on hen consumption, as it is the most cost-effective way of reducing the consumption of hens.” said a spokesperson for GOBBLE, who was previously a senior government adviser. “It’s much cheaper than, say, just banning hen consumption.”
The Fox Council of Australia said in a statement: “We fully support a price on hen consumption. However, we are concerned that a badly-designed policy could cripple Australia’s competiveness relative to other economies.
“China has not introduced any restrictions on hen consumption, and we must remember Australia’s hen consumption is only 1.5% of the global total.
“Given the present circumstances we should really put the whole thing off for another electoral cycle or two or three.”
Many foxes say the tax will cause them to starve.
“I’m under a lot of pressure at the moment, and I’ll really struggle to survive if my compensation isn’t increased by 10%,” said one fox that will be compensated for 95% of the costs.
Activists back policy
Animal rights groups support the policy, urging Australians to “say yes to a price on hen consumption”.
“This is an inspiring first step towards a safe future for all hens,” said Animal Rights Party leader Christine Milne, who was on the committee that designed the policy.
Milne concedes the Government’s 5% target “is not nearly enough”, but her party successfully lobbied for regular independent reviews which she hopes will increase its ambition in future.
The Animal Rights Party also argued strongly for some of the revenue to be spent on hen protection measures.
The policy does include $10 billion for a new Chicken Protection Fund (CPF), though it will not begin spending money for two years.
Half the funding is guaranteed for hens, with the other half likely to be spent on other animals such as foxes.
Alan Moron, a senior researcher at the Institute for Pathetic Astroturfing (IPA), denounced the CPF as “inefficient”, “wasteful”, and “picking winners”.
“This is an ideologically motivated subsidy of evolutionarily unviable species like chickens, which are very short,” said Moron, whose research is on how to publish opinion columns.
The IPA did not comment on existing subsidies for foxes.
The opposing Opposition, who sit opposite the Government and have the opposite point of view, oppose the policy.
“Cutting Australia’s hen consumption by 5% will make no difference to the survival of the chicken species,” said Negative Party leader Tony Abbott, who has previously described reports of foxes consuming hens as “absolute crap”.
“Even the Government’s own modeling admits 60% of their target will be met by outsourcing hen protection to other countries.
“This toxic tax will starve foxes but it will not reduce hen consumption in Australia.
Instead, the Negatives propose to address the problem of foxes eating hens by cutting Australia’s hen consumption by 5%, and intend to meet 60% of their target by protecting species other than chickens.
Combet dismissed Abbott’s claims as a “scare campaign”.
“We foresee a vibrant future for Australian foxes,” said Combet.
Gillard described the positions of the Animal Rights and Negative parties as “extremist”.
“Only Labor can balance the needs of foxes and hens,” she said.
The people are revolting
Meanwhile, nationwide protests against the new tax have been organized by the grassroots community group Free Radicals Opposing New Taxes (FRONT).
“Australians are really doing it tough at the moment,” said a FRONT spokesperson.
“Our dollar is too strong because foxes are eating too much, and the hen consumption tax is the last straw because it will hit foxes hard.
“The people of Australia must rise up in revolt to defend the profits— I mean, the rights of ordinary Australians.”
Abbott told a FRONT rally today, “This great big new tax being imposed on the Australian people shows Christine Milne is the unofficial Prime Minister of Australia.
“This is a government based on a lie, and Julia Gillard should call an election today so the people can elect a more honest prime minister,” said the alternative prime minister.
Controversial talk radio host Alan Jones has nicknamed Labor “the Liebor Party”.
“Julia should be torn apart and devoured alive by a skulk of foxes,” said Jones, who later denied accusations he was inciting violence against the Prime Minister.
“I might not always agree with some of the colorful language that Alan uses,” said Abbott.
“I guess the point I would make is you know what you’re not getting when you vote for the Negative Party, because we oppose everything, even our own policies.”
When questioned about his own policies, Abbott ended his press conference abruptly.