Successful blockade highlights plight of caged hens
25 June 2012
Access to the largest battery cage facility in New Zealand was obstructed on Monday by animal activists in a dramatic dawn blockade in protest against cages for layer hens.
Eight metre high tripod structures with climbers suspended were set up at the entrance to the Mainland Poultry complex in Waikouaiti. The activists were from a collection of animal advocacy groups coming together as the Coalition to End Factory Farming, with SAFE in a supporting role.
"The action was carried out to highlight the continued cruelty of cages," says SAFE Campaign director Eliot Pryor, "and especially to stop the introduction of the proposed colony battery cage system which Mainland Poultry is trialing. The new cages are basically just battery cages with small modifications. These hens are deprived of everything natural to them, treated as egg production machines and will still have less area than an A4 piece of paper per bird."
While workers were able to walk into the facility, trucks that would normally be using the road to pick up the 400,000 cage eggs laid every day were unable to enter. After ten hours the activists were removed by a specialist police team with a cherry picker, and no charges were laid.
"Mainland Poultry has refused the media access to these new colony battery cages and it is easy to see why," says Eliot. "They do not want the public to see the abhorrent conditions the animals are forced to live in. They cannot explain to consumers why hens are crammed inside cages so tiny they have barely any room to move."
Secretly filmed images of the colony battery cages in the Mainland facility, showing a dark future for New Zealand's three million battery hens, were revealed on national television earlier this year.
The Minister for Primary Industries, David Carter, is considering approving the introduction of colony battery cages as part of the delayed welfare code for layer hens.
Colony battery cages do not provide the hens with the opportunity to display their normal behaviour as required by the Animal Welfare Act. Both New Zealand and international animal welfare agencies have condemned them, declaring the cages "fail to properly meet the hens' physical or behavioural needs."
The action attracted huge media interest throughout the day, and the story was lead headline for a number of news outlets, including internationally, successfully highlighting the plight of hens.
A huge number of people sent e-cards directly to the Minister from the moment the story broke, and continue to do so. Visit nocages.org.nz to have your say against colony cages. It takes less than a minute and yet can make a lifetime of difference for NZ's 3 million caged hens.
If you'd like to help pay for some of the cost of today's action and support SAFE's No Cages campaign you can make a donation here.
Petition encourages supermarket phase out cage eggs
13 June 2012
Dunedin residents have voiced huge support for the local New World supermarket to go ‘cage free' and remove cage eggs from shelves.
The Dunedin volunteer group handed over a 1700 signature petition to the local New World, asking for the store to commit to a phase out of cage eggs from shelves, and in the meantime, improve the labelling of the eggs.
"They have done a great job over the last few months," said SAFE Campaign director Eliot Pryor. "They have provided a great example of what the local groups can do, and shown how consumers can influence retailers."
Over eight months the volunteer group has been canvassing signatures, and group Coordinator Carl Scott said the high level of support had been gratifying. "I've been astounded and inspired by how many people care, and actively support this issue," he said. "We believe the level of support we received is a clear indication of the level of local sentiment to do away with cage eggs."
"Everyone can do their part," said Carl. "There are in fact already supermarkets in New Zealand that have removed cage eggs from their shelves, and have found that it did not affect their sales at all. We will continue to work locally with retailers and businesses, and highlight the public concern for better animal welfare standards."
Watch a TV item featuring an interview with Carl.
Tasmanian ban on battery cages welcomed
6 June 2012
The latest boost to the campaign against battery hen farming comes from Australia where Tasmania has become the first Australian state to commit to a complete phase-out of battery hen cages. The Tasmanian government will also phase out sow stalls by the middle of next year - well before the pork industry's own target of 2017.
While the exact details of these phase-outs still have to be finalised, it appears that Tasmania will work towards a quick cage ban and most importantly, will not allow colony cages to replace the banned battery cages. "The Tasmanian ban is of great importance as it has placed the issue of factory farming firmly on the political agenda throughout Australia and this ban will not go unnoticed in New Zealand either," says SAFE Executive director Hans Kriek. "The New Zealand Code of Welfare for Layer Hens is still under review and the Tasmanian ban sends a strong message to our Government that cages do not have a future."
"Tasmania is showing that positive change for animals can be made. It is great to see a Government acknowledging that cruelty to animals is unacceptable and will not be condoned by an informed public. SAFE will ask the New Zealand Government to follow this enlightened example and ensure that cage farming here will end in the shortest time frame possible. The Tasmanian Government would not have made its decision without strong public pressure and I call on the New Zealand public to become more vocal on this issue and demand battery cages, including colony cages, be banned here as well," says Hans.
For the last few years SAFE has focused its attention on the cruelty of battery hen cages. SAFE has:
- exposed the ongoing use of the old style and now illegal cages and we have provided New Zealanders with the first glimpses of the new colony cages set to eventually replace current battery cages.
- with the help of supporters sent tens of thousands submissions to the Government and the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee calling for a ban on all cages, including colony cages.
- run television advertising to inform people about the cruelty of cage farming, and held dozens of public information stalls.
Several SAFE centres are running local petitions calling on their supermarkets to move away from cage eggs and ensure proper labelling in the meantime. As a result of SAFE's campaigning more and more people are choosing to no longer buy cage/battery eggs and opinion polls consistently show that eight out of ten New Zealanders want battery cages banned.
"The Tasmanian ban gives heart to the New Zealand campaign and will hopefully bring us one step closer to the ultimate demise of the cruel battery cage," says Hans.
SECRET COLONY CAGE SYSTEM EXPOSED
March 2012 - Secretly-filmed footage taken inside the largest battery egg farm in New Zealand shows a dark future for New Zealand's three million laying hens.
Current affairs show Campbell Live showed for the first time footage of the proposed colony battery cage systems for layer hens. The footage, taken by animal rights investigators at Mainland Poultry's main operation north of Dunedin, reveals a grim new reality for egg-laying hens. It shows tens of thousands of hens crammed into a new type of battery cage called the colony cage. These new cages are being touted by the egg industry as a suitable alternative to conventional battery cages and are expected to gain the approval of the Minister for Primary Industries, David Carter.
Find out more about the dark future of egg production in New Zealand.
BRANDS AT RISK IF EGGS FROM CRUEL SOURCES
2 Dec 2011 - Companies face a risk to their brands if they use eggs from battery caged hens, according to latest survey results released today by animal advocacy group SAFE.
Almost a third of respondents said they would prefer well-known companies such as Edmonds, and the Progressives and Foodstuffs supermarket chains, to stop using cage eggs. Up to 29 per cent say they will feel worse about a company they're buying from if they find they're using eggs from caged hens. More...
NEGLECTED AND DYING CAGED HENS EXPOSED
SAFE calls on authorities to close farms immediately
14 Nov - Thousands of layer hens have been found living in appalling conditions on farms that use illegal cages. Animal advocacy organisation SAFE has made an official complaint to MAF, calling for these farms to be closed immediately.
A three-month investigation by animal activists sparked a shocking exposé on TV One's Sunday programme that revealed a number of battery hen farms using cage systems that were banned in 2008. It is believed the eggs from these farms are being supplied to retailers nationwide.
Footage given to SAFE shows thousands of birds suffering in severely overcrowded cages and in appalling physical condition. Dead, dying and decomposing birds were a common sight. A veterinary report described six birds rescued from one of the farms as in "an appallingly poor medical condition". SAFE says many of the birds had had their beaks crudely cut off, were underweight and were suffering from severe feather loss.
SAFE director Hans Kriek says that despite more than twenty years of campaigning on this issue, he is outraged by the appalling conditions discovered. "These types of cages have now been banned for nearly four years and yet here we have thousands of animals still suffering in them. Food safety standards are also clearly breached, and you have to wonder how many unsuspecting consumers are eating eggs that have been laid on top of rotting carcasses!"
The Layer Hen Code of Welfare 2005 sets minimum standards for the farming of commercial laying hens. The code effectively banned the use of the old style battery hen cages from January 2008 by increasing the amount of space per hen and by requiring that cages must have doors that open over the full length of the cage. The old cages with their small doors often caused injury to the hens when they were removed from their cage.
"The 2005 code gave farmers three years to move away from these non complying cages but we now have evidence that some farmers are blatantly ignoring the welfare code and continuing to use these outdated and cruel cages. "It is horrifying that they can simply get away with it," says Mr Kriek.
SAFE demands that the Minister of Agriculture David Carter forces his officials to take immediate action by prosecuting and closing down all farms that use illegal cages. "We also want MAF to carry out an audit of all cage farms in New Zealand to ensure compliance with the welfare code," says Mr Kriek.
SAFE is also calling on all political parties to pledge to end the caging of layer hens and urges consumers to voice their opposition to cruel cage farming by boycotting cage eggs.
BATTERY HEN FARMERS UNDER FIRE
23 Nov 2011 - Pressure is mounting on New Zealand egg farmers after a graphic exposé of cruel farming practices by the Sunday current affairs show.
The show exposed farmers using illegal battery hen cages, showed dead and dying hens in their cages and eggs lying next to rotting carcasses.
Almost as shocking as the vile conditions of the farms was the admission from MAF officials that they were unable to act against these law-breaking farmers. In fact, the program revealed that MAF had been aware for many years that farmers were using cages that were non-compliant with the Layer Hen Code of Welfare and did nothing.
On a follow up news program, a MAF official told the interviewer that MAF implores farmers to change away from non-compliant cages and if farmers failed to do so, MAF would implore them some more. "Nothing shows MAF's impotence and incompetence more than this feeble explanation", says SAFE director Hans Kriek.
A few days after the show, the Egg Producers Federation held its annual conference and SAFE was there to let the egg farmers know that it is time to end their cruel farming practices.
SAFE activists accompanied Hans Kriek and Hetty, the ex battery hen mascot into the hotel where the farmers were about to start their conference. Hans and Hetty wanted to attend so that they could be the voice for the three million battery hens that have been traditionally ignored by the industry. It soon became clear, however, that the farmers did not want to debate animal welfare, as they installed security people at the door to prevent Hetty and Hans from entering. "I am appalled that these farmers are celebrating their industry in five star luxury when three million hens are left suffering on their farms", says Hans.
A much larger protest was held the next day with 35 people attending. Again the industry made sure that no debate could take place by having half a dozen security guards and even more police at hand to stop Hetty and Hans attending the conference. The noisy protest sent a strong message to the farmers that their cruel cages will no longer be tolerated.
"The egg industry will have to get used to ongoing pressure through undercover filming, protests and media actions if they continue to ignore public opinion and keep using cruel factory farming practices", says Hans.
WORLD EGG-FREE DAY
19 Oct 2011 - SAFE celebrated its inaugural ‘Egg Free Day' on 14 October, in response to the Egg Producer Federation's (EPF) ‘World Egg Day' promotion, and to remind them of the cruelty suffered by millions battery hens.
Hetty, New Zealand's ex-battery hen mascot faced up to her arch-nemesis ‘the Egg Guy' in central Wellington, while SAFE teams took on EPF promotional stalls in Auckland and Christchurch.
SAFE director Hans Kriek says "Hetty exposed the reality of egg production in this country and ensured consumers were not hoodwinked by the Egg Guy's promotional spin. Nearly 90 per cent of the eggs produced in New Zealand come from caged hens who are suffering every day of their lives. The egg industry had absolutely no right to be celebrating".
Hetty managed to speedily spoil the Egg Guy's fun, and he was hounded out of town, as he attempted to give away free cartons of eggs. He lasted just twenty minutes, obviously fazed when confronted by the truth. More mixed up than scrambled tofu, the Egg Guy had no reply to the evidence against him and had no choice but to leave.
"Celebrating eggs while millions of hens suffer a life of abject misery, is simply obscene. Eight out of ten New Zealanders want battery cages banned and the time has come for the industry to listen, and move away from this outdated and cruel production system," said Mr Kriek.
Look out for Round Two, when Hetty catches up again with this Guy's touring promo circus and goes for the knockout! Meanwhile, around the country, SAFE enlisted the support of its members and 8,000 Facebook fans to bake cakes and other sweet treats without eggs as a show of protest, and to celebrate a day free of cruel eggs.
"We have established Egg-Free Day as an annual event, to encourage compassionate baking, and to continue the fight on behalf of caged hens," Mr Kriek said.
Watch a compilation of photos from the action. Download delicious egg-free recipes.
Animal welfare groups united in opposition to colony cages
On Tuesday 4th October, during World Animal Week, SAFE teamed up with the RNZSPCA, alongside Green Party MP Sue Kedgley, to make a special announcement that the proposed new colony cages do not actually meet hens' welfare needs.
Click here to watch the highlights of the presentation by SAFE director Hans Kriek, the RNZSPCA's Robyn Kippenberger and Sue Kedgley.
From an animal welfare perspective, colony cages offer minimal welfare improvements, and, if introduced, mean hens will continue to suffer in cage systems for decades to come.
The special presentation was to announce that, in line with international organisations, New Zealand animal welfare groups are united in their opposition to colony cages as a replacement for battery cages. On the same day Wellingtonians saw in that morning's Dominion Post a half-page open letter from SAFE, to the Agriculture Minister David Carter, asking him to take a stand and ban all cages.
During her talk Sue Kedgley made a pledge on behalf of the Green Party to do just that, and ban all cages, including the colony cages. SAFE is now calling on all other parties to follow suit.
Sue Kedgley and Hans Kriek are two of the few people outside of the egg industry to have seen the new cages, which are being trialled at Mainland Poultry just out of Dunedin. Ms Kedgley again questioned why the media is not allowed in to see this secret facility. This despite it being partly publicly funded to the tune of $400,000.
In a media statement the Egg Producers Federation (EPF) in response defended the colony cage system as making "critical improvements" over standard battery cages, but did not comment specifically on the welfare problems inherent within the systems. It also asked for twenty years to phase out battery cages, "to make the change-over and stay in business."
Dressed as chickens Wellington SAFE coordinator Rachel Manley and her partner, Jon Brown, braved the icy waters for the Annual Polar Plunge.
Determined to keep SAFE's NoCages campaign in the public eye they decided to raise awareness at this popular local event.
Rachel said "It was very cold but we got used to it and it was still a lot of fun particularly since we did some dance routines to warm up, much to the delight of onlookers" ‘We'd definitely do it again next year," says an eager Rachel.
Good on you, Rachel and Jon!
CLAD IN BRIGHT yellow chicken costumes, the eight-strong SAFE Wellington team took part in the 10km marathon and to their surprise, were announced as the best-dressed team at the start of the race! Go chickens!
Despite the weather being cold and miserable, everyone was cheered along by the undeterred crowd as they passed the starting line.
Wellington coordinator, Rachel Manley, said that they received a huge amount of support on their way round with loads of people calling out "good on you!" or "we only buy free range!". Rachel also added, "It really made it feel like a worthwhile thing to do!"
Half of the chicken team decided to walk the marathon while the others decided to run. Amongst the walkers was 12-year-old vegan, Esther who raised $52, she braved the wild Wellington conditions with her mum Loretta who did the whole 10km with a pushchair! Esther is the youngest volunteer we have had at SAFE Wellington - Esther, you were amazing and an inspiration.Thanks to everyone on the day. "You rocked those chicken suits. No seriously you did!" says Rachel.
SAFE CHICKEN RUN!
SAFE's chicken costume-clad flock walked and ran in the 10km SBS Marathon to raise awareness about battery hen farming.
The eight person team wore brightly coloured yellow chicken costumes with signs reading 'Lay off cage eggs' and 'Ban cage eggs', sending a strong message to onlookers to help battery hens.
SAFE volunteer, Annelies Basten, says "The walk was a lot of fun and it was amazing how much positive support we received from spectators and other competitors. Bring on the next marathon!" Awesome effort.
Sign up for the chicken club!
Speak out against battery hen farming by taking part in your local marathon or event dressed as a chicken! Email firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up.
SAFE TEAMS OUT ON THE STREET
Over 20 volunteers joined a successful hen vigil in Wellington to support SAFE's NoCages campaign. Over the course of the 12-hour vigil, the Wellington team managed to get an outstanding 1,200 people to sign postcard submissions addressed to the Prime Minister.
"This really was an amazing achievement as it wasn't an overly busy time but the team managed to gain a lot of public support, many of whom were appalled at the treatment of layer hens," says Wellington coordinator Rachel Manley.
The vigil screened footage taken inside a battery hen farm, revealing the true nature of conditions. The public were also encouraged to experience for a minute what life is like for a battery hen in a human hen cage.
"Green MP Sue Kedgley was one of many to bravely spend time inside the cage in support of our efforts and the hens," says Rachel.
"The human-sized cage definitely got people talking about life for a caged hen and how cruel it was. Children asked the most questions and were rather bewildered that animals could be kept in such appalling circumstances."
Rachel said as a special treat and thank you to those who stopped and entered the cage, the team offered yummy cruelty-free chocolate mini eggs which were quite a treat. Good on you, guys!
Vigil in Manawatu
Manawatu SAFE held a vigil for chickens in Palmerston North during Easter weekend.
Members of the public were appalled, disgusted and distressed that layer hens are still kept in such severe confinement in New Zealand. SAFE received a lot of support for their NoCages campaign, with people queuing up to sign submissions to the Prime Minister calling for an immediate ban of battery cages.
SAFE Manawatu were among many SAFE centres around New Zealand that have sent thousands of postcards to John Key calling for a ban on all hen cages. The total number of submissions sent to the PM exceeded 33,000. Great work, guys!
North Shore market champions!
Auckland's North Shore volunteer team has been leading the way in the NoCages campaign, with weekly stalls and thousands of cards signed in the last few weeks. SAFE campaign director, Eliot Pryor, says the eager group has maintained a weekly presence at the Takapuna market and continue to get hundreds of cards signed each time.
"Combined with two other stalls last weekend, in just three days over a thousand Aucklanders signed submission cards to demand the end of cage farming. It is amazing what a handful of determined people can do and I am really proud of them," says Eliot. Nice work, team!
Fun runs, stalls and vege BBQs
• Auckland volunteers braved the heat and walked 11km in the Round the Bays in full-body chicken costumes to raise awareness of the plight of battery hens. As part of a colourful crowd of 70,000 people, eight SAFE volunteers raised the serious issue of factory farming in a light-hearted way, and even got a few cards signed on the walk. Avril, who had her photo appear in the NZ Herald, says she overheard people around them talking about the problem of battery hens. Another walker, Melissa, says "the walk was awesome, so many people wanted to take photos with us. It was very, very hot but people sprayed us with hoses so it wasn't so bad." Good on ya, guys!
• SAFE teams in Rotorua, Gisborne, Tauranga, New Plymouth, Palmerston North, Oamaru, and Invercargill have been out in force raising money for Christchurch animals and getting battery hen submissions signed, with many more stalls and actions planned for the next four weeks. Oamaru's efforts were reported on in their local newspaper. Great stuff everyone!
• Auckland North Shore volunteers have been holding stalls on the street and at the weekly Takapuna market on Sundays. One of the organisers, Gordana, says that "people were very responsive and the cage was very, very effective." Last Sunday around 400 submission cards were signed!
• SAFE held a stall at Auckland's Unitec ‘Sound of Summer' orientation event, where over 500 cards were signed. SAFE volunteer, Sandra, says "personally, I have found that there is a great deal of public support for banning hen cages, and I am sure SAFE will be successful in this campaign as well. The exhibit and chicken costumes were very effective in engaging people in conversation. I was touched at the Unitec orientation to see how many young people wanted to sign cards, and quite a few of these young people made the commitment to get more involved."
• Wellington volunteers have been running stalls and activities, getting submission cards signed and raising money for animal relief work in Christchurch. Trudi, one of the coordinators, says the SAFE stall at the Newtown Festival collected loads of signed postcards, handed out heaps of information and sold 220 vegetarian sausages. "Hopefully we made a decent profit to pass onto Animal Aid to help those in Christchurch," she says.
NEW MODELS SET TO IMPRESS!
The first of 15 new model cages, with life-like model chickens, is now in use in Auckland and is proving very effective. It is giving the public the chance to see firsthand the cramped and barren conditions that battery hens are forced to live in all their lives. Fourteen others will be delivered shortly to volunteer groups nationally.
While the egg industry is proposing to phase out this type of cage over two decades, it insists cage farming is still the future of farming hens in New Zealand. It proposes the introduction of ‘colony cages', which provide a little more space and certain ‘furnishings'. However, the hens will still live all their lives without seeing daylight, unable to run and forage, and with most natural behaviours severely restricted.
The continuation of cage farming cannot be allowed, and the designing of ever-better cages - still impoverished prisons for hens - are cynical games being played by an industry that doesn't want to discard an economic model based on animal cruelty.