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Pressure on Minister to ban cruel cages intensifies

Monday, 3 October, 2011

The nation's leading animal advocacy groups are joining forces today to call on the Minister of Agriculture to prevent the use of colony cages.

SPCA New Zealand and SAFE intend to use all measures available to strongly urge the Minister to ban cage farming for layer hens once and for all.

At a press conference tomorrow morning they will announce their united opposition to these cages, which coincides with an open letter being published in The Dominion Post asking the Minister to take a strong stance and declare that cages must not be an option for New Zealand.

The call comes as the government is considering replacing cruel battery cages with so-called 'enriched' colony cages, as recommended by the draft Code of Welfare. SAFE and SPCA New Zealand say a move to colony cages will guarantee the continued suffering of millions of caged hens.

"In reality these cages breach the law, the Animal Welfare Act, as they do not allow the hens to express their normal behaviour. They have the same basic welfare problems associated with battery cages and we must ensure they are not legalised in New Zealand," says SAFE director Hans Kriek.

Strengthening their position, both SPCA New Zealand and SAFE have joined a consortium of international animal welfare agencies, including the World Society for the Protection of Animals, Humane Society US and the UK-based Compassion in World Farming, by signing a worldwide position statement that condemns colony cages.

The position statement states, "It is clear that such modified cages fail to properly meet the hens' physical or behavioural needs. They provide an unacceptably restrictive amount of space per bird; severely restrict many important physical activities, including running, flying, and wing-flapping; and do not permit unrestrained perching and dustbathing. The severe restriction of the hens' ability to exercise is likely to lead to frustration, bone weakness, and osteoporosis — clear indicators of poor welfare."

SPCA New Zealand National Chief Executive, Robyn Kippenberger, says "Colony cages offer no significantly better conditions for hens than those they are currently enduring. As such, they are not acceptable. In the end, a cage is a cage is a cage."

"To allow the continuation of cage farming will be to the detriment of all involved," says Mr Kriek. "Firstly, farmers will be required to invest in equipment that could potentially be banned in a few more years; the public, who have given a clear message that free range products are preferred, are being ignored; and of course the hens themselves will be sentenced to live in inadequate conditions for decades to come. The Minister of Agriculture must not concede to the egg industry’s plan to keep layer hens caged."