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New Campaign To Target Battery Cages

An end to battery cages has been forecast by New Zealand's leading animal welfare organization.

The Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals will next week unleash its largest-ever campaign, aimed at outlawing the battery farming of egg-laying hens.

The SPCA is calling for a total ban on battery cages to take effect as soon as possible and not later than 2010. By mobilising public opposition to the cages, organisers will seek to influence a committee appointed by the Minister of Agriculture, which is due to review the Welfare Code for Layer Hens later this year.

"We have a unique opportunity to get rid of battery cages once and for all," says Royal New Zealand SPCA National Campaign Co-ordinator, Hans Kriek, noting that, under the 1999 Animal Welfare Act, government is required to take public opinion into account when setting or revising animal welfare codes.

"As this is an election year, politicians can be expected to pay particularly close attention to the clearly expressed views of a large percentage of voters. New Zealanders have a growing distaste for cruel farming practices, as was recently shown by the 64,000 submissions sent to government in just over two months during last year's campaign against sow stalls.

"We confidently expect an even stronger response to our battery hen campaign, as this will take place over a longer period than our sow stall drive, will have the benefit of television advertising and will be focussed on a practice already widely recognised by New Zealanders as cruelly abusive to animals and as a blot on our nation's reputation," he says.

According to Mr Kriek, the surface area in which each battery hen is confined is smaller than that of an A4 sheet of paper. He describes the cramped and barren environment of battery cages as preventing hens from performing most of their normal activities, including walking, stretching their wings, pecking, scratching, nesting, foraging or dust-bathing. The hens tend to suffer from severe feather loss due to constant rubbing against the wire of the cage and are prone to leg weaknesses.

"The lack of space represents a clear breach of the Animal Welfare Act, which stipulates that animals must be free to demonstrate normal patterns of behaviour. Other countries have gone further. Battery cages have already been banned in parts of Europe and are expected to be phased out of the European Union as a whole by 2012.

"For the sake of our global reputation, we can't be seen to be dragging our feet over this obscene farming method. No-one will be impressed by New Zealand's 'clean and green' image unless we're also known to be humane, " he says.

The SPCA's anti-battery cage campaign is to be officially launched at Wellington's Turnbull House at 12.30 pm on Thursday 14th March. The launch will feature a human-scale battery cage, complete with sloping wire floor. This will allow members of the public and the media to experience for just a few minutes some of the discomfort and distress imposed on battery hens throughout their lives.

Also present at the launch will be three live battery hens, confined in their battery cage to demonstrate their appalling living conditions.

"As you'd expect, the birds are in a pitiful state. We're taking them to the launch because, although most people know something about the cruelties of battery farming, very few have actually seen a battery hen in the flesh. Once you've seen one of these poor, abused creatures, you will be opposed to battery farming for the rest of your life," says Hans Kriek. Postcard-size submission forms calling for a ban on battery cages are to be available during the campaign from all SPCA branches and from any of the 16 branches nationwide of "The Body Shop", which is supporting the SPCA's drive.

The SPCA is also encouraging New Zealanders to write their own submissions and send them to Agriculture Minster, the Hon. Jim Sutton, explaining why they want an immediate ban on battery cages.


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