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SPCA Condemns Battery Cage Indecision

30 August 2004

SPCA Condemns Battery Cage Indecision

New Zealand's largest animal welfare organization has expressed anger and utter amazement at a proposed five-year delay on any decision to ban battery cages for hens.

A leaked ministerial advisory report and draft copy of the welfare code for layer hens reveals that the government-appointed National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) is recommending delaying until 2009 any decision on the future of battery cages, in order to allow for "further research".

"We are amazed that NAWAC thinks more research is needed before a decision can be made," says Jenny Prattley, Acting Chief Executive of the Royal New Zealand SPCA, which ran a high-profile campaign against battery cages in 2002-2003.

"The facts about battery hen farming are quite clear. It is a cruel and barbarous farming method which should be banned as soon as possible. We urge the Minister of Agriculture, the Hon. Jim Sutton, not to sign off on the code," she says.

Battery hens are kept in cramped and bare environments which, Mrs Prattley says, prevent them from performing most of their normal behaviours, including walking, stretching their wings, pecking, scratching, nesting, foraging and dust-bathing. The hens tend to suffer from severe feather loss, due to constant rubbing against the cage walls and other hens in the cage, and are also prone to crippling leg weaknesses.

"Any legislation against battery cage farming is bound to involve a period of adjustment while the practice is phased-out. This means that a five year delay in reviewing the issue will inevitably mean a twenty to thirty year delay before battery hen farming finally disappears from New Zealand.

"Through its lack of resolve, NAWAC has condemned yet more generations of battery hens to live out their short, unhappy lives in truly hellish conditions. There can be no excuse for this indecision in the light of the more than one hundred thousand submissions, calling for an end to battery farming, sent to the Minister of Agriculture in 2002," says Mrs Prattley.

"New Zealanders also showed where they stood on this issue when a resounding 79 percent of those asked, told a 2002 Colmar Brunton survey they would be prepared to pay higher prices for their eggs if that meant hens no longer needed to live in battery cages.

"The same percentage also told the survey that they agreed with the proposition that battery cages should be banned as soon as possible and not later than 2010," she adds, pointing out that, under the 1999 Animal Welfare Act, NAWAC is meant to take public opinion into account when setting animal welfare standards.

Mrs Prattley describes as "woefully inadequate and derisory", NAWAC's decision to increase the minimum living space allowable for individual battery hens from 450 to 550 square centimeters by 2014. This amounts to an increase equivalent to two credit cards, and means hens will still each have a living space of less than an A4 page.

"A further concern is that we are swiftly falling far behind international best practice in this area. Battery farming is being phased out in much of Europe. In Germany, for example, battery cages will be outlawed by 2010.

"It's about time that we too followed our consciences and put an end to the disgusting regime of torture that is battery farming. If Mr Sutton signs-off on the code in its current form, he will be doing so in the face of overwhelming public opposition to battery cages," she says.


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