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Egg Producers Federation Welcomes Advert Decision

Egg Producers Federation
Of New Zealand (Inc)

17 October 2002

Egg Producers Federation Welcomes Decision To Uphold Complaint

The Egg Producers Federation today welcomed the Advertising Standards Complaints Board decision to uphold their complaint in respect of the “Trapped” cinema advertisement commissioned by the SAFE lobby group.

“We would like to thank the Board for the consideration given to this matter. We are pleased that the Board found in our favour, especially as the decision to lay the complaint was not taken lightly. We felt strongly about the misleading advertisement and wanted to challenge SAFE’s habit of seeking to obscure the facts to support simplistic slogans,” Michael Guthrie, Chairman of the Egg Producers Federation said.

The Advertising Standards Complaints Board found the advertisement contained several exaggerated claims that could not be substantiated and relevant details were omitted to the extent that it was misleading, thereby breaching the Advertising Code of Ethics. Specifically the report identifies the following four statements to be in breach of the Code:

“The hen’s cages are made of sharp thin strands of wire.”
The Board found this claim was exaggerated and omitted relevant details to the extent that it was misleading, thereby affecting a breach of Rule 2 of the Code of Ethics.

“ In fact, the wire used for cages is neither thin nor sharp. The floors are manufactured from a mesh that the birds can naturally clasp, as they would when perching, and which provides appropriate support,” says Michael Guthrie.

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“Caged hens spend their entire life in the dark.”
The Board found this to be an exaggerated claim which could not be substantiated and as such it was misleading and in breach of Rule 2 of the Code of Ethics.

“The lighting in sheds follows the normal cycle of day and night. Birds are not kept in darkness for any more than the normal cycle of night, “ says Michael Guthrie.

“The tips of the beaks of all caged hens are removed.”
The Board was of the view that the advertiser had not sufficiently substantiated the claim and it was therefore misleading and in breach of Rule 2 of the Code of Ethics.

“The tipping of beaks in caged birds is practiced in less than 50% of farms and is diminishing. It is expected to cease altogether over the next year or two,” says Mr. Guthrie.

“Caged hens’ bones will weaken through lack of movement and then finally break.”
The Board was of the view that the advertiser had not sufficiently substantiated the factual claim stated in the advertisement and it was therefore misleading and in breach of Rule 2 of the Code of Ethics.

“There are between five and seven birds to a cage. They are able to move around the cages and do so actively. Bone breakage’s, in the rare cases they happen are the result of accident or poor stockmanship, not from cages, “ Mr. Guthrie said.

“Similarly to the Advertising Standards Complaints Board, we appreciate freedom of speech - so long as the facts are presented clearly – something SAFE clearly failed to do.”



- There are approximately 160-180 commercial egg producers throughout New Zealand. All egg producers, but for a few very small-scale producers (less than one hundred hens per farm) are members of the Egg Producers Federation.

- There are between 2.7 – 2.9 million layer hens in production at any one time in New Zealand and the total egg production ranges from 68 million – 78 million dozen eggs per annum.

- The New Zealand egg production industry has significantly modernised in the last five years. 82% of caged layer hens are housed in new, improved multi-layer cage units within environmentally controlled housing with automated egg collection, feed and water, and manure removal systems and increased space. The new housing allows optimal control of air quality, temperature, feed, water and light, all of which enhances hens’ animal welfare.

- Scientific veterinary evidence shows that cages actually enhance many aspects of hen welfare. Modern cage systems allow for a small hen colony size, which reduces hens’ aggressive behavior and eliminates any threat of cannibalism in a controlled housing environment. Additionally these systems allow for good disease and pest control, cleaner birds and eggs, a higher level of assurance on food safety and better working conditions for employees.

- Hens are kept in cages because it is the best known system to ensure the production of high quality, affordable eggs. The New Zealand egg industry is well informed of the advancements in research and development findings in the rest of the world and in many cases New Zealand’s egg production systems and animal welfare and biosecurity standards lead the world.

- Loss of feathers by hens is a natural process. Hens naturally lose a proportion of their feathers throughout their 12 – 14 month laying cycle, irrespective of whether it is a caged, free range or barn system. At the end of this period most hens will actually lose all their feathers through moulting in preparation for another laying cycle. Cages are not the cause of feather loss as alleged by some organisations.

- There is an agreed Code of Practice for layer hens for animal welfare that exists between the Egg Producers Federation and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF). The Egg Producers Federation developed this Code to ensure high standards of animal welfare within the egg production industry. In the event of any complaints the Egg Producers Federation immediately refers them to MAF who will fully investigate them, and if necessary, prosecute farmers who are not meeting the standards.

- The Egg Producers’ Federation is currently working with the National Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) of MAF and animal welfare advocates revising and updating the Layer Hen Animal Welfare Code and converting it into regulation under the Animal Welfare Act. Formal public consultation on NAWAC’s notified public draft of the code was concluded at the end of August. The new Code will be introduced once the Minister of Agriculture has approved it. No final date has yet been indicated.

- Egg production reflects market demand. Currently only 8% of eggs are free-range or barn laid. The reality is, people choose to purchase the cheaper eggs produced in cages, which account for 92% of all eggs produced. This is largely because eggs are an affordable and important source nutrients and protein in the New Zealand diet.


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