THE PRICE OF EGGS: Subsidised with cruelty

Objectively speaking it should be a simple proposition – 8 out of 10 New Zealanders say they are opposed to the use of battery cages, so lets phase them out, and lets ban all cages while we’re about it.

It’s not a welfare argument anymore, as everyone agrees the old cages are shameful, hidden away in dark sheds – and farmers don’t even want us to see the proposed new systems which are supposedly the latest in hen welfare (yeah right!).

It’s the economic argument which gets wheeled out as justification for farming birds in cages, and which makes it harder for politicians to counter in an election year.

‘What about a cheap supply of protein?’ say the industry. ‘What about the poor and marginalised of this country, struggling to afford the simple basics of life?’ they chirp.

For a start this is obviously false concern. The number of eggs bought relates directly to how much profit goes into the pockets of these egg producers. It’s a business in which the objective is to continually increase consumption and sell as many eggs as possible. It’s done by keeping egg prices low – which is done by keeping production costs low and output high. Nothing wrong with making a profit of course, but not at the cost of animal welfare.

And there’s a number of other reasons that make this a false argument, designed to distract us from the cruelty involved.

There is no lack of protein in the New Zealand diet (when was the last time you met someone with a protein deficiency?). There are plenty of cheap protein sources available without subsidising one single product with cruelty. And there is no need to keep actually increasing the consumption of eggs, as has been happening over the last two decades.

In terms of life in the real world, the removal of these super cheap eggs is absorbed into a consumer’s supermarket shop. There are already supermarkets in this country that have made the move away from offering cage eggs, they have ensured a secure supply and it hasn’t affected sales – and they actually sell as well as any other supermarket.

Actually it seems people on low incomes are ethical shoppers too, it’s not a ‘privilege’ of the few. Shoppers can prioritise and choose wisely, and of course, compassion is not directly related to income – often it is demonstrated as the reverse [a topic deserving of its own blog post]. Many more ordinary Kiwis choose not to give their family products from this system of cruelty.

And finally, this comparison between egg prices becomes irrelevant with the possible introduction of colony cages – prices are set to go up with a change in systems. The question really is, why introduce a new cage system which is not yet in New Zealand, is almost as cruel as battery cages, could potentially be found to break the Animal Welfare Act in a few years time, is leaving the industry open to protest from animal welfare groups, has been banned in other countries AND severely restricts the animals’ natural behaviours??

By recommending the introduction of colony cages in its draft report, the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) is playing a role in supporting industry profits, not its stated role to protect animal welfare. There is no mandate for it to keep egg prices artificially low, and it should look at this issue objectively: hens don’t belong in cages.

Eliot Pryor – SAFE campaign director

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9 Comments Add yours

  1. Harry Young says:

    The extra cost of free range over battery produced is tiny. Even if four people ate one egg every day, the extra cost is very small.

  2. Honora says:

    Yes. Regarding low income people not supporting caged hens’ eggs. I was surprised to find out that a pal of mine who’d been on benefits for a long time didn’t buy these or factory farmed pork. Very impressed to see she priorised humaneness over economics.

  3. Vanessa Courtney / Gibbs says:

    The price in food is dare due to companys after profit, like Fonterra…..
    Our farm life should be looked after, Pigs,Cows,Hens etc
    Instead they are in poor conditions and are feed to produce faster
    for market demand world wide.
    We should not be getting charged for a companys Investment.
    It should be affordable in our own Country .. NZ

  4. Alison Phillips says:

    Well said, Elliot.

  5. Carl Scott says:

    Well put Eliot.

    The cheap protein argument always bugs me. It seems to be the ONLY reason the egg industry can come up with to continue their cruel practices. “Cheap protein for New Zealanders”. It’s ridiculous. Baked beans are a cheap source of protein, and I don’t need to torture a bird to death to get myself a can of baked beans mister…

    And if some families are really so poor they can’t afford quality food – and I know some are – then surely we need to be asking, “Why? And what are we doing about it?” In such a wealthy nation, why is there such a widening gap between the rich and the poor? Surely the answer is not to provide cheap, but cruelly produced animal foods. Surely the answer is to raise the poor families standard of living, and educate them about cheap, healthy food.

    Also, in my experience, MOST of the people who moan because Free range eggs are about $2 – $4 dearer, seem to be able to find money for chocolate, chips, soft drink, wine, (as examples), and other luxuries or treats. If they can afford luxuries, they can definitely afford the extra few dollars for Free range. It’s simple. Just leave one or two packets of chocky bikkies on the shelf this week, and buy the better eggs. It’s not a matter of full your bank-account/wallet/purse is. It’s a matter of ‘doing the right thing’.

    Even better than buying Free range eggs, go Vegan. Vegans don’t eat ANY eggs. Or for that matter, any animal protein at all. And going Vegan is WAY easier than what most people think. In fact some of the best food I’ve ever eaten is since I became Vegan. I think it’s because Vegans have a point to prove! 😉 I.e. That Vegan food can be just as tasty as any other food.

    And we don’t need any nutritionist, dietician, doctor, or scientist to tell us whether Veganism works or not either. There are millions and millions of Vegans in the world – including top level Performance athletes, A-list celebrities, and Academics – who are LIVING PROOF that Veganism works.

    And if we don’t NEED animal foods, then how can we justify continuing our cruelty to animals? Because we like the taste? Paedophiles like to hurt children. Should we allow them to do so, because they like to? Of course we shouldn’t. And why not? Because it’s bad for the children. Right? So why do we eat animals just because we ‘like the taste’. Surely killing and eating animals (when we clearly don’t even need to) is bad for the animals.

    We have a choice at every meal. Compassion… or Cruelty.

    I know which one I always choose. I know it feels great being a part of the solution, and not a part of the problem. I’d encourage any non-Vegan reading this to consider ‘going all the way’ and giving up eggs altogether. Being Vegan is awesome! 🙂

    Check out http://www.vegansociety.co.nz

  6. gemma says:

    this needs to stop curelty to animals shouldnt be allowed people that support caged hens are heartless low lifes who should be treated like their victims

  7. Helen Whittaker says:

    I find people use cheap eggs as an excuse for buying cruelly farmed eggs. How do you explain to these people that they are not a bargain,they come at a huge cost to the animals concerned.

  8. Lucas Rendon says:

    Even free range chickens don’t live a normal life, but caged chickens are in hell.

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