Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Please help free the Layer hens

Please help free the Layer hens

by Carl Scott

Do you care about Animals? From now until 25 March, we have a chance
to help New Zealand hens, as the Code of Welfare for Layer Hens is
being reviewed. This is an issue particularly pertinent to us here in
Blueskin Bay, as the largest battery facility in the country is just
up the road. Zeagold, a business in Waikouaiti owned by Mainland
Poultry Ltd., currently houses over a quarter of a million hens in
battery cages.

The Status Quo

88% of the roughly 3.5 million egg-producing hens in New Zealand live
in tiny cages. They are in fact illegal as defined by the Animal
Welfare Act 1999, and even the industry acknowledges that they are
unacceptable.

Four to six birds are crammed into each cage and these are stacked on
top of each other in tiers. Each hen has the floor space equivalent to
less than a piece of A4 paper. The birds cannot stand up fully, walk,
or stretch out their wings. They often lose many of their feathers and
suffer skin damage from rubbing up against their cages and cage mates.
Overcrowding leads to aggression, so light levels are decreased to
virtual darkness, or hens have the tips of their beaks removed to
decrease injuries or cannibalism. They never see sunlight. They stand
on sloping wire mesh floors, and cannot scratch, forage, or dust
bathe. They can express virtually none of their natural behaviours.

Chickens have been scientifically proven to be very intelligent,
sensitive, and social animals, with complex lives. There is no
question that they suffer terribly in their cages. It is not an
exaggeration in fact, to say that their lives are a living hell.
Clearly, this must end immediately.

Draft Code Inadequate

The National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) is a government
body whose job is to advise government about animal welfare issues.
They are currently reviewing the Layer Hen Code. On 8 February this
year they released a draft of their proposed new version of the Code.
They are receiving submissions on the draft until 25 March, before
submitting their final version to the Minister of Agriculture, David
Carter, for approval. Once the code is approved, it may not be
reviewed again for ten years, or longer. Therefore, we must speak up
for the chickens now.

In the draft NAWAC is recommending that current cages should be phased
out, and replaced with so called 'enriched' colony systems. In these
cages, more hens live in each cage, which have one small area of turf,
a perch, and a single nesting box which must all be shared. (Are they
supposed to have a roster system?)

The cages would be taller, and allow the birds to stand up. Each
chicken has slightly more floor space though too: an A4 piece of paper
plus a credit card. The industry claims that these systems are a vast
improvement. In fact, these cages are barely better than the status
quo.

Animal rights representatives from the NZSPCA, SAFE and the Green
Party have all condemned the draft proposal, and the so called
'enriched' cages. They say that these are still grossly inadequate for
the birds to exhibit their natural behaviours as defined by the Animal
Welfare Act. Enriched colonies have already been banned in Germany and
Austria.

There is also no indication of the time frame when the changes will be
introduced. Even if changes are decided upon, they might not happen
until 20 years from now. This is unacceptable. The birds are suffering
now, and changes must happen immediately!

How to help

The people of New Zealand must tell NAWAC that we will not accept
these inadequate half measures. It must surely be obvious to any
intelligent person, that slightly less bad is not the same thing as
good. Ultimately a larger cage with token additions is still a cage.

Some people will object to a ban on all cages, on economic grounds. It
is definitely possible that the price of eggs may increase a little
for consumers, and extra costs will be incurred by those in the egg
industry. But how can we compare the economic inconvenience of a human
to the horror that is a caged bird's life? Many people who say they
cannot afford free range eggs are usually able to find money for
luxuries like biscuits or chips (for example). It is a matter of
priorities. Which do we value more highly? Our pleasures? Or the hens'
basic rights?

Public exposure and public pressure helped get sow stalls banned last
year. We can do it again this year for layer hens. If you want to help
create a better life for them, then please take action in one or more
of these ways:

1: Write or email a submission to NAWAC, telling them why you think
'enriched' colony systems are an unacceptable replacement for the
current cages. The draft code and guidelines for making a submission
are at: http://www.biosecurity.govt.nz/biosec/consult/code-of-welfare-for-layer-hens.
(Note: It does not have to be as long or detailed as they suggest - a
few lines will do.)

2: Write or email the following people with your thoughts: The Prime
Minister, John Key. The Minister of Agriculture, David Carter. Our
Local MP, Pete Hodgson. Perhaps you could even write a letter to the
Editor of the ODT. (Hint: You could write one draft letter, modify it
slightly 4 times, and send it to all of these different people.)

3: Raise awareness about the issue by telling others via Facebook,
Twitter, your Blog, other Social Media, or even via Email.

4: Don't buy cage eggs! Buy free range eggs. Encourage friends and
family to do the same. You could ask your local supplier,
(supermarket, dairy, etc.), to stock only free range eggs. Tell them
why you want them, and why you will not buy cage eggs.

5: Check out the following web links to learn more about the issue and
what else you can do to help.

* http://safe.org.nz/Campaigns/Battery-hens (Lots of excellent info
and links. Have a good look at this site. Look for the link to send an
ecard to John Key)

* rnzspca.org.nz/news/78-news/365-email-the-minister-proposed-hen-code-unacceptable
(Send an email to the Minister of Agriculture, and check the links to
more info)

If you want to know more, please feel free to contact me, Carl Scott,
at carldscott@yahoo.co.nz, or phone/text me on 027 2275 726.

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Ā ā Ē ē Ī ī Ō ō Ū ū
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1 comment:

AaronCross said...

I agree with this sentiment, and also urge readers to take a stand. Hens are delightful creatures, somewhat better company than those who abuse them like the staff employees shareholders and customers of Mainland poultry. Its not often the government wants to hear from the public with regard to animal welfare issues, so please dont pass up this opportunity. The status quo is barbaric and shame to the human race. Time to apply morality through law because it is bankrupt in the context of ethical egg and chicken meat production, and also in the blind utopia of selfish ignorance we call "consumer choice".