8 February 2011
The draft welfare code for layer hens, released for public consultation today, has left animal advocates outraged and questioning the logic of the Agriculture Minister’s animal welfare advisors. The code proposes to ban existing battery cages on the basis that they fail to comply with welfare standards, yet allows their replacement with equally cruel cages.
National animal advocacy organisation SAFE says that the draft code, developed by the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC), intends to phase out existing battery cages over a yet to be determined period but possibly not until 2030. The group is at a loss to understand why NAWAC would allow so-called ‘enriched’ cages (also referred to as colony systems) that do not provide the animals with adequate living conditions.
“These modified battery cages provide largely illusory improvements for the hens. The enrichment features, a nest box, perch and scratch pad, are of such minimalist design that the cages still do not meet the hens’ behavioural and welfare needs,” says SAFE director Hans Kriek.
”Enriched cages provide each hen only 600 square centimetres of usable space, this is smaller than an A4 sheet of paper, nowhere near enough for the animals to lead a normal life. As a result, these cages are condemned by international animal welfare agencies and are already banned in Germany and Austria. It is ludicrous to introduce a cage system that is already banned overseas on the grounds of cruelty,” says Mr Kriek.
“NAWAC would have us believe that these new, modified battery cages provide significant animal welfare benefits and that New Zealand egg producers should invest millions of dollars in these cages. These modified cages, with their token accessories, will not be accepted by the New Zealand public as a humane alternative,” says Mr Kriek.
Last year SAFE successfully convinced the Government to ban cruel sow crates. Eight out of ten New Zealanders are opposed to battery hen cages and SAFE believes that it is time for the Government to listen to the public’s concern and introduce a complete ban on the caging of all commercial laying hens.
This week SAFE launches its NoCages campaign, urging New Zealanders to make a submission calling for an immediate ban on cages for hens.
For more information, contact SAFE director, Hans Kriek: 027 446 2711.
For information on the campaign and to sign a submission visit http://www.nocages.org.nz