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Kedgley speech - SPCA battery cage campaign

14 March 2002

Kedgley speech to opening of SPCA battery cage campaign Turnbull House,

Mahatma Gandhi once said that 'the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated'.

What does it say about the moral state of New Zealand that we allow millions of animals to be locked up in cages, as if they were industrial products or biological machines, rather than fellow species that we should treat with compassion and respect.

The purpose of the battery hen cage campaign is not only to bring an end to the hideously cruel practice of keeping hens in cages, but also to lift the veil of secrecy that has for far too long surrounded factory farming in New Zealand.

It is nothing short of scandalous that an industry producing food that all New Zealanders eat will not allow us, the consumers of New Zealand, to see how that food is grown.

Consumers have a fundamental right to know how the goods we purchase and consume are produced.

In my view there should be a national outcry about the fact that hens and chickens - and pigs - are raised in factories that we, the people of New Zealand, are not allowed to see inside.

One good test of whether a farming practice is acceptable is whether it could be done in public, for all the world to see. The poultry industry assures us that hens are perfectly happy to be locked inside cages for all of their lives, and that there are no animal welfare issues that need to be addressed during the review of the code for battery hens.

I therefore challenge the layer hen industry to prove to New Zealanders that there are no animal welfare issues that need to be addressed in battery hen farming by opening up their factory farms to the media, and selected members of the public, so that they can see for themselves the conditions in which layers hens are raised.

And I challenge all members of the media here today to ask their local egg producer if they can visit a battery hen farm over the next few months, and especially during the upcoming six weeks of public consultation, so that they can film or write about the conditions inside a battery hen farm for the millions of consumers who are not able to go inside to see for themselves.

Tegel recently refused a Listener journalist writing a feature on the broiler chicken industry the right to visit a broiler chicken factory farm, begging the question, just what have Tegel got to hide? An industry that had nothing to hide and was proud of its 'pure,' 'natural' and 'barn raised' chickens would surely be urging the media in for a peek.

Hiding behind biosecurity issues as an excuse to deny access won't wash either, as I am certain that members of the media or the public would be happy to don hair nets, overalls and disinfected gumboots to avoid taking any germs into the factories.

I have been lucky, or rather unlucky enough, to have visited two different battery hen farms. The first had hens kept in old fashioned cages, with all of their excrement falling into a pit on the floor, and the stinking stench of ammonia from the urine and droppings made me wretch as much the sight of all the hens crammed into their cages.

More recently I visited the largest hen factory farm in the South Pacific, Mainland in Dunedin. There was no smell of ammonia or stinking pit on the floor there. Everything was modern, state of the art and electronically managed - the air quality, the conveyor belt bringing the feed in and the eggs out. But even with the most modern, state of the art industrial equipment, modern plastic cages and the like, it looked Orwellian. Battery hen cages piled seven stories high as far as the eye could see, miserable looking hens, many without many feathers, staring at one as if to implore me to get them out of this hell hole.

The Green Party will do everything in our power to help rid New Zealand of the battery hen cage, and hopefully we will be joined by parliamentary colleagues who are here today. New Zealanders are united in their opposition to this cruel form of factory farming. It is only foot dragging by politicians that allows it to continue in our midst.

So let's stop foot dragging and turn up the heat on the battery hen cage. Let's respond to the concerns of millions of New Zealanders and rid this monstrosity from our land.


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