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Australian retail giant treating Kiwis unfairly

20 March 2017 | MEDIA RELEASE

Australian retail giant treating Kiwis unfairly

SAFE is accusing Australian corporation Woolworths Group of double standards for refusing to phase out all cage eggs at their New Zealand Countdown stores, whilst already having committed to phasing out cage eggs in their Australian supermarkets. This follows a Serious Fraud Office investigation into one of Countdown’s egg suppliers who were allegedly passing off caged eggs as free-range. The resulting outcry shows the strength of public feeling against the caging of hens.

In response to Woolworths’ inaction, and after a year-long campaign from New Zealanders pleading with them to go cage-free, SAFE is upping the ante in their campaign aimed at Countdown, including a no-holds-barred TV ad airing nationally, for which they are crowdfunding, starting today. Starring actor Aidee Walker, the ad explains that “Kiwis want an end to cage cruelty” and asks viewers to “tell Countdown to stop selling all cage eggs”.

SAFE’s campaign echoes the views of most New Zealanders, evidenced by a new Horizon Research poll showing that more than three quarters of Countdown’s customers support the supermarket giant phasing out the sale of eggs from caged hens.

SAFE says that change by Countdown is inevitable but taking far too long.
“Woolworths has listened to their Aussie customers by committing to going cage-free, but they are turning a deaf ear to caring Kiwis wanting to end hen cruelty,” says Mandy Carter, head of campaigns. “Ultimately this continuing stance is going to damage their brand. Thousands of messages have been received by Countdown over the past few months asking them to go cage-free, and New Zealanders are tired of being ignored. Are they saying their Kiwi customers are second rate? They are certainly treating us as that. Countdown is lagging behind by only, so far, looking at their own-brand eggs being cage-free by 2022.”

In 2012 a ban on conventional battery cages in New Zealand was announced with a 10-year phase-out period. Conventional battery cages are being replaced by new colony cages. In a colony cage, around 60 birds are kept per cage with each bird having the space of just over an A4 piece of paper, which is little more than in the old-style cage. The hens spend their lives confined on a sloping wire floor. They cannot fulfill their most basic natural instincts such as dust-bathing, scratching for food and building a nest.

“The ban on battery cages signaled that keeping animals cruelly confined for low-cost products is no longer acceptable to the public. By refusing to stop selling cage eggs, Woolworths and Countdown are treating Kiwis like poor cousins – as if our opinion does not matter,” says Ms Carter. “We all know the horrors of battery cages and need to prevent all hens being caged for life in cruel colony cages too. Woolworths, via Countdown, is perfectly positioned to help make this happen, given that they have already made the move in Australia.”

A number of New Zealand retailers have already committed to going cage-free, including McDonald's, Wendy’s and Burger King. Countdown is being asked to commit to a future phase-out date in New Zealand, rather than an immediate end to cage eggs. Since Countdown sells one in five of all eggs in New Zealand, this will give the egg industry a clear message to move away from caging hens. There has been a global movement away from cage eggs, including in Europe which has a stocking density for free-range hens equivalent to New Zealand.

“The public has spoken and they do not want New Zealand animals cruelly confined,” says Ms Carter. “It is time for Woolworths to listen to their Kiwis customers, and step up and commit Countdown stores to going fully cage-free.”

SAFE is urging the public to email Woolworths and Countdown.


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