Countdown Backpedals over Confusing Cage Claims

Countdown has backpedalled from claims it was making around cage eggs on its Facebook page, after some customers accused the supermarket giant of being misleading.

After weeks of a campaign asking Countdown to go cage-free, the retailer claimed that the government was already phasing out cage eggs, hoping to deflect the pressure. But eggs produced in cages are not actually being phased out at all.

Countdown was relying on a technicality, trusting that consumers would not be able to understand the nuance of the law. Standard battery cages are being phased out by the government by 2022, but only to be replaced by another type of cage – the colony battery cage.

Currently both these two types of cages are used in New Zealand as a result of the Government releasing a new welfare code for layer hens back in 2012. This required existing standard battery cages to be phased out and replaced by another type of cage, the colony cage. Hens confined to these cages spend their lives crammed inside a wire cage with barely more space than an A4 piece of paper per bird, which is little more room than a standard battery cage. They are unable to stretch out their wings, scratch as they would in the wild, or dust bathe, and are forced to stand on an uncomfortable, sloping mesh floor.

There are approximately three million layer hens caged in New Zealand and millions of their eggs are sold by Countdown each year.

“Supermarkets have a responsibility, both legally and morally, to be clear with consumers as to what their policies actually are. Countdown should not have attempted to confuse their customers by providing incorrect and vague information,” says SAFE executive director Hans Kriek.

Countdown has now responded to customer accusations of being misleading by removing the offending text from its standard replies. However, the supermarket has offered no clarification, and some customers are still confused.

“The fact is, Countdown has misled their customers, whether they meant to or not. Their customers now deserve straight answers,” says Mr Kriek. “Many people are now under the impression that cages for hens will be illegal in a few years. This simply isn’t true and hens will continue to suffer.”


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22 February 2016