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Proposed hens code unacceptable

Tuesday, 8 February, 2011

SPCA New Zealand does not support the draft Code for Animal Welfare - Layer Hens released today by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF).

The code, developed by the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC), proposes a phase out of battery cages allowing instead the use of 'enriched' cages.

“A cage is a cage is a cage. These proposed enriched or colony cages offer no significantly better conditions for hens than those they are currently enduring. As such, they are not acceptable,” says Robyn Kippenberger, National Chief Executive of SPCA New Zealand.

A dispensation on economic grounds was given to egg producers in New Zealand through the original Layer Hen Code of Welfare in 2005 as, under the 1999 Animal Welfare Act, keeping animals in conditions where they cannot exhibit their instinctive behavior is deemed inhumane.

New Zealand’s move toward cage-free production follows the EU initiative to phase out battery cages from 2012. The proposals for so called ‘enriched’ cages puts us 20 years behind our EU counterparts and it brings a whole new level of ‘economic’ dispensations. Once these units have been installed, industry will ask for a further 20 years to phase them out.

Cage free egg producers affiliated with the SPCA Blue Tick programme are already successfully using barn and free-range methods, proving there is insufficient economic reason for delaying the ban on the use of these cruel caging systems.

Consumers vote with their wallets by choosing SPCA Blue Tick products when shopping for their eggs around the country. The demand for cage-free eggs is increasing and industry is already responding to that change.

It is disingenuous of NAWAC to further bolster the supply of cage bird eggs for the foreseeable future.