It was a super World Animal Week for the No Cages campaign, with media coverage highlighting the plight of caged hens. On Tuesday 4th October SAFE teamed up with the RNZSPCA, alongside Green Party MP Sue Kedgley, to make a special announcement that the proposed new colony cages do not actually meet hens’ welfare needs.
You can see highlights of the presentation by SAFE director Hans Kriek, the RNZSPCA’s Robyn Kippenberger and Sue Kedgley here.
In Hans’ recent post on this topic he confirmed that colony cages offer minimal welfare improvements, and, if introduced, mean hens will continue to suffer in cage systems for decades to come.
The special presentation was to announce that, in line with the big international organisations, there are no (as in, zilch) animal welfare groups in this country that would accept the colony cages as a replacement for battery cages. On the same day Wellingtonians saw in their morning’s Dominion Post a half-page open letter from SAFE, to the Agriculture Minister David Carter, asking him to take a stand and ban all cages.
Show us your cages!
During her talk Sue Kedgley made a pledge on behalf of the Green Party to do just that, and get rid of all cages, including colony cages. SAFE is now calling on all other parties to follow suit – especially Labour and National, which have no real policy on animal welfare.
Sue and Hans are two of the few people outside of the egg industry to have seen the new cages, which are being trialled at Mainland Poultry just out of Dunedin. Sue again questioned why the media is not allowed into see this secret facility. This despite it being partly publicly funded to the tune of $400,000.
A cage is a cage is a … hard sell
In response the Egg Producers Federation (EPF) put out a media statement effectively saying hens will be happy in the new cages, and to phase out battery cages, “to make the change-over and stay in business.” This is despite the useful life of a cage apparently being only eight years and needing replacement anyway. Not that that would be an excuse either.
Are they serious? What other business would continue to use compromised production methods and not plan to phase out as soon as possible? Or not even think to say sorry to their consumers?
The EPF are happily volunteering to move the industry to the colony cage system – already banned in Austria and Switzerland, with Belgium and Germany considering a ban. I feel sorry for them in a way, as it’s going to be a hard sell. Have a look here at the industry presentation, and see what you think.
It’s not fair on the farmers themselves, especially the smaller producers. There is no certainty for producers when the legal standards keep changing. It means the goalposts keep shifting, and not even to high standards, just slightly different ones.
No problem for the bigger producers given they get more of the market share when the small ones drop out of business.
Why not just aim for high welfare standards?
When announcing the new Pig Code last year the Agricultural Minister Mr Carter said:
“The new Code confirms New Zealand’s position as a world leader on animal welfare and demonstrates the priority this Government places on it.”
It will be the next Minister of Agriculture (lets not count our chickens before the election) who has to front up to the public and say either, “More cages, for the next 50 years actually”, or ‘Yes, we care about hens too, which is why cage-free farming is the way to go. New Zealand’s brand is ‘100% pure’ of course”.
Cruelty in the supply chain
Later that day after the presentation, Sue Kedgely got a hard time from radio host Susan Wood on Newstalk ZB, who put forward the suggestion that because people are more important than hens it’s OK to mistreat them.
Most Kiwis do not share the idea that cheap eggs are worth the suffering of the birds. Most household shoppers would prefer not to feed cruelty to their families. In the latest research 82 per cent stated they have a preference for free range products.
Susan also asked Sue about prices going up but really this isn’t the issue – as I’ve discussed here before, prices will go up with any change in systems, as is now inevitable. The real question is to what type of system.
Is animal welfare really a priority to politicians, and will the other political parties pledge against colony cages? It’s election time and several individual MPs, from John Banks to Peter Dunne, support a move away from factory farming systems. What does your MP think? www.nocages.org.nz
SAFE Campaign director