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Leaked code sanctions hen cruelty

31 August 2004

MEDIA RELEASE

Leaked code sanctions hen cruelty

A leaked ministerial advisory report and draft copy of the code of welfare governing layer hens, currently before the Minister of Agriculture to ratify, has leading veteran animal welfare campaigners outraged and in disbelief.

Documents from the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) and the Egg Producers Federation reveal a sinister plot of lobbying, coercion, legal challenges and feeble justifications to ensure New Zealand retains the use of the cruel battery hen cage indefinitely.

Campaign Director Hans Kriek, from the national animal advocacy organisation SAFE, says "We are dumbfounded that the Minister of Agriculture is set to legalise cruel standards that totally contradict international scientific research and public opinion."

"SAFE has spent the past fifteen years lobbying the government, industry and the public for an end of the cruel battery hen cage. These calls have been consistently backed by scientific research that proves battery cages cause hens to suffer immensely. Since then, countries have banned or phased out cages; supermarkets have stopped stocking battery eggs; and public opinion polls have signalled strong opposition to keeping hens in cages."

The Layer Hen Welfare Code was drafted in 2001 following the introduction of the Animal Welfare Act in 1999. The code was written by egg producers, submitted to NAWAC and then released for public submissions. SAFE has since learnt the Egg Producers Federation has spent over $700,000 fiercely lobbying NAWAC and MPs, conducting closed meetings and threatening legal challenges.

"These leaked documents indicate the process has seemingly been hijacked by industry to retain the cruel battery cage indefinitely. It proves thousands of taxpayer dollars have been wasted in a process that is neither democratic nor fair. Should the code be adopted in its present form, over 30 million battery hens will be condemned to a life of hell inside tiny wire cages over the next 10 years."

Public opinion is overwhelmingly opposed to battery cages. NAWAC received over 120,000 public submissions against battery cages. A Colmar Brunton poll found 79 per cent of the public were opposed to caged hens and were willing to pay more for free-range eggs.

If the Minister ratifies this code SAFE will mount a legal challenge to the Regulations Review Committee to investigate why NAWAC has made recommendations to the Minister that do not comply with the Animal Welfare Act 1999.

ENDS


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