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Higher Egg Prices Preferred To Battery Cages

Higher Egg Prices Preferred To Battery Cage Cruelty

According to new research, nearly eight out of ten New Zealanders would be willing to pay more for their eggs, if battery cages for hens were banned.

Participants in a Colmar Brunton survey of 500 representative adults were told that the average retail price of a battery egg was 30 cents, whilst barn and free range eggs cost around 40 or 50 cents each.

The participants were then asked whether they would be prepared to pay this higher price for barn or free range eggs, if this meant that hens no longer had to live in battery cages. 79% said they would be prepared to pay the higher prices whilst 15% said they would not be prepared to pay extra and 6% said they were unsure.

Similar results were registered when participants were asked whether or not the practice of keeping hens in battery cages was acceptable. The practice was deemed unacceptable by 78% and acceptable by 14% with 8% saying they didn’t know.

There was also agreement from 79% of those surveyed to the proposition that battery cages should be banned as soon as possible and no later than 2010. Only 11% of participants disagreed with this view.

The survey of adults aged 15 or more living in New Zealand’s 15 major centres was conducted between 17th and 22nd April 2002. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4%.

“These results provide absolute and damning refutation of poultry industry claims that outlawing battery cages would make eggs too expensive, “ says Hans Kriek, National Campaign Coordinator for the Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

“It’s very heartening to have this confirmation that the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders would be prepared to pay a little extra for their eggs if that meant freeing more than two million hens from the cramped and miserable conditions imposed by battery farming.

“There really is no excuse now for government not moving quickly to end this cruel method of egg production once and for all. Under the 1999 Animal Welfare Act, public opinion has to be taken into account when animal welfare codes are set or reviewed. If government doesn’t ban battery cages, it will be treating both the Act and the public with contempt,” Mr Kriek adds.

In March this year, the Royal New Zealand SPCA unleashed its largest animal welfare campaign in a bid to persuade the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) to recommend a ban on battery cages when it reviews the Welfare Code for Layer Hens later this year.

More than one hundred thousand postcard-sized submission forms, calling for a ban have been signed by members of the public and are to be despatched to the Minister of Agriculture. The SPCA is also urging New Zealanders to write their own submissions and send these to the minister.

Hans Kriek describes the space in which each battery hen is confined as smaller than that of an A4 sheet of paper.

“This cramped and barren environment prevents hens from performing most of their normal activities, including walking, stretching their wings, pecking, scratching, nesting, foraging or dust-bathing. They tend to suffer from severe feather loss due to constant rubbing against the wire of the cage and are prone to leg weaknesses,” he says.

“A ban on battery cages is NOT, as some in the poultry industry maintain, a utopian fantasy. Bans are already in place in a number of European countries and Germany is to phase-out standard battery cages by 2007 and so-called ‘environment enriched’ cages by 2012. If the Germans, with fifty million hens, can do it, so can we with just two million hens.

“This international trend towards more humane farming has clear implications for our global reputation and, hence, for our export trade. It’s also abundantly clear that increasing numbers of New Zealanders want our country to be in the forefront of this trend and certainly don’t want us to gain a reputation as a bastion of outdated and cruel farming methods, “ says Mr Kriek.


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