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Govt urged to reject 'barbaric' battery hen code

31 August, 2004

Govt urged to reject 'barbaric' battery hen code

Green MP Sue Kedgley today urged Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton to reject a draft layer hen code that recommends that New Zealand producers be allowed to keep raising hens in cages indefinitely.

"We don't allow dogs to be locked up in tiny cages all their lives. Why should we allow hens?" asked Ms Kedgley, the Green Party's Animal Welfare spokesperson.

Ms Kedgley described as a "sick joke" the report's startling recommendation that hens kept in cages are better off than hens reared in free-range conditions.

The leaked draft code, prepared by the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC), concluded that battery hen farms - where hens spend their lives in cages, unable to turn around, walk or stretch their wings - provide 'better welfare outcomes' than those found at free range farms.

"It's totally absurd to think that birds would be better off in cages with less floor space than an A4 sheet of paper," said Ms Kedgley. "These cages should not be allowed in a civilised society, and the government must get rid of them.

"I call on the Minister to reject this code which clearly flouts the sensibilities of the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders - A 2002 Colmar Brunton survey showed that 79 per cent wanted battery cages banned as soon as possible or by 2010 at the latest.

"Mr Sutton cannot hide behind the excuse that the recommendation comes from NAWAC. If the government approves this code it will be sanctioning the continued abuse of 2½ million battery hens," she said.

The main recommendation of the report is that the minimum cage size for each hen is increased from 450 square centimetres to 500 square centimetres by 2008 - an increase in floor space for each bird of about the size of a credit card.

"It's a nonsense to suggest that increasing the size of the cages by the amount of a credit-card per bird will improve the welfare of the birds," said Ms Kedgley. "The report concedes that the cages reduce the normal behaviour patterns of chickens, so therefore cages breach section four of the Animal Rights Act.

"This code is all about protecting the poultry industry, not the welfare of the birds. It has been drafted by the industry to protect their vested interests and their profits," she said.

"And when it comes to free range farms being worse for welfare, one couldn't think of a more miserable existence than being crammed in a cage with other birds where feather-pecking and cannibalism is rife."

ENDS

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