SPCA Calls for Total Ban on Layer Cages

NEW ZEALAND - The Royal NZ Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) is calling for a ban on all types of cage for laying hens, including enriched cages.
calendar icon 20 May 2011
clock icon 3 minute read

In a submission to NAWAC's review of the Layer Hen Code last month, 29 April, the society says any caged system of layer hen management can in no way be considered humane. This is regardless of the 'enrichments' provided.

RNZSPCA CEO, Robyn Kippenberger, sid: "NAWAC's draft review document suggests the introduction of enriched cages as a solution for intensive egg farming in the future.

"However, NAWAC has already conceded the keeping of layer hens in cage confinement breaches the Animal Welfare Act. The SPCA submits that any continued allowance of cage systems, enriched or not, would also constitute a breach of Section 28(a) of the Act."

A major reason given for continuing caged bird egg production is the cost to the consumer, Ms Kippenberger says.

"Given that New Zealand is not a Third World country, the SPCA asks NAWAC to recognise that consumers cope with regular meat, milk, butter and cheese price increases with no protection from government.

"That leaves no good reason for interference at government level to be afforded to sustain an industry that does not comply with the Animal Welfare Act."

The SPCA strongly recommends numerous changes to the draft code, Ms Kippenberger says. Principally, they are:

  • all cage farming systems for layer hens should be immediately banned
  • moult inducement (controlled feeding practices) should be immediately banned
  • all people involved in the direct care of layer hens should undergo and successfully complete a certified course in animal care or handling that includes methods of hen capture and handling and be aware of signs of distress in hens
  • an enriched environment should be provided for layer hens
  • a mandatory minimum area of shade of no less than 20 per cent of the minimum range stocking density should be supplied to outdoor foraging hens, and
  • provision should be established with all possible haste in order to qualify and regulate the meaning of the term 'trained or competent operator' and how that relates to specific tasks.

Submissions for the review of the Layer Hen code closed last month.

Under the society's Blue Tick national certification programme animals have 'Five Freedoms', one of which is freedom to express natural behaviour.

To earn the right to display the Blue Tick, producers must meet the SPCA's rigorous welfare standards and undergo thorough auditing by qualified and independent inspectors.

Free-range and barn laid eggs were first to be accredited under the scheme in 2001, and in 2007 free-range and eco-barn (free farmed) pork and pork products were added.

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