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Minister’s ‘Ignorance’ Leads to Continued Hen Suffering

Minister’s ‘Ignorance’ Leads to Continued Hen Suffering

Reports that the Minister of Agriculture David Carter was ‘unaware’ that hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars have been spent assisting the egg industry to move from one cruel cage system to another are hard to credit, say animal advocates.

The Minister came under fire at question time in Parliament yesterday after denying he knew that $400,000 of taxpayer funds has gone towards trialling a proposed new cage system for layer hens, the colony cage system. The Minister said he was not aware of any funding from the Sustainable Farming Fund going towards the testing of the new colony cage system, and added that he thought a move to free range production would mean the cost of egg production in this country would dramatically increase.

SAFE campaign director Eliot Pryor says that despite the Minister’s claims that there is a need to be ‘objective’, his statements indicate a predetermined agenda. “We believe that he is preparing to lead a move to introduce the colony cage system,” says Mr Pryor.

Despite the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) conducting a financial analysis of a shift to the new colony cage system as part of the current review of the Layer Hen Code of Welfare, there has been no similar analysis of a move to non-cage systems.

“To suggest he is outside this process is just not credible. There is huge public support for a move away from cage farming and the only way the Minister can avoid acknowledging this seems to be through distancing himself from a biased process,” Mr Pryor stated. “SAFE believes that the NAWAC review has been set up to fail caged hens,” he added.

“Taxpayer funding is being channelled towards vested industry interests, to set up an intensive cage system that is already banned in some countries around the world,” says Mr Pryor. International animal welfare groups have declared that the colony cage system “fails to properly meet the hens' physical and behavioural needs”.

The one colony cage system currently in use in New Zealand is a commercial ‘trial’ that is being conducted under conditions of extreme secrecy. Media have been refused access, making it one of the most secretive facilities in the country.

“Non-cage systems are already in place in New Zealand farming so we must ask why funding is going to another cruel system that is not yet established in the country,” points out Mr Pryor. “NAWAC has refused to conduct financial analysis into a move to non-cage systems. To introduce colony cage systems is, in any case, going to require the industry to make massive capital investment over decades that will inevitably flow on to consumers.”

“The Minister needs to explain how the review process can be claimed to be ‘objective’ when funding is being given to one cage system, and fails to seriously analyse a move to non-cage systems” says Mr Pryor.


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