Major win for ‘People Power’ as first supermarket chain goes cage-freeMarch 29th, 2017
Animal advocacy organisation SAFE is delighted that supermarket chain Countdown has announced it will stop selling all cage eggs from 2024 (North Island) and 2025 (rest of New Zealand). The decision is a massive win for caring Kiwis, who have been inundating Countdown with thousands of messages via social media and email during a year-long campaign, showing their strong opposition to the cruel caging of hens.
Woolworths, the Australian corporation, owns Countdown. Woolworths had already pledged to be cage-free by 2025 in Australia and this move for Countdown to be cage-free, shows an end to what New Zealanders were calling a double-standard. In New Zealand, Burger King, McDonald’s and Wendy’s have all pledged to go, or have gone, cage-free, along with several individual New World stores.
SAFE says the agreement to stop selling caged eggs by Countdown is part of a global revolution, as hundreds of companies move away from the outdated practice of caging hens.
“We’re delighted that Countdown has decided to listen to their customers. This will make a significant difference for caged hens in New Zealand and shows the real power that Kiwis have to create positive change,” says Mandy Carter, campaigns director. “This is the beginning of the end of cage hen farming. No farmer with common sense would now invest in the new cruel colony cages.”
Whilst battery cages will be illegal in New Zealand from 2022, hens in the new colony cages spend their lives crammed into a wire cage with barely more space than an A4 piece of paper per bird. They cannot fulfil their natural instinct to scratch for food, dust-bathe or build a nest, and have to stand on a sloping, mesh floor.
There are approximately three million layer hens in cages and Countdown sells millions of their eggs each year. This announcement will positively affect around 400,000 hens. A recent Horizon Research poll showed that three-quarters, (76 percent), of Countdown’s customers would be supportive of Countdown phasing out cage eggs.
SAFE has led a high-profile campaign working as part of the international coalition The Open Wing Alliance. The campaign has included fundraising for a national TV ad – which was due to also be shown in cinemas; mobile and static billboards; filming customers’ reactions to Countdown’s sale of cage eggs; protests outside many Countdowns, including one with a plane flying overhead during the opening of a new store. Auckland schoolgirl 13-year-old Maja Skilling also expressed her disgust at cage eggs by starting a petition which attracted almost 20,000 signatures. Countdown has received a steady stream of messages from customers demanding cage eggs to be withdrawn from sale.
SAFE will be continuing the campaign to stop the caging of hens and is in productive dialogue with other retailers.
“Caged hens suffer their whole lives and the majority of Kiwis want an end to this cruelty. Now that we are seeing businesses such as Countdown refusing to sell these eggs due to consumer pressure, more will follow and we will see an end to the cruel caging of hens,” said Ms Carter.