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.

The Government is expected to soon release a new welfare code for layer hens.

"Mainland Poultry has refused the media access to these new battery cages and it is easy to see why," says SAFE director Hans Kriek. "They do not want the public to see the abhorrent conditions the animals are forced to live in. They do not want to explain to consumers why as many as 60 hens are crammed into cages so small they have barely any room to move. They will also have difficulty explaining the so-called enrichments which are merely window dressing rather than meaningful improvements to bird welfare."

Renowned animal behaviourist Jonathan Balcombe says of the colony battery cages that "any housing condition that confines a hen to the indoors, away from the sun and the grass and the opportunity to forage and live as nature intended, is inadequate for fulfilling its natural behaviour requirements."

"Colony battery cages do not provide the hens with the opportunity to display their normal behaviour as required by the Animal Welfare Act, so why bring in another cruel system that again breaks the law?" asks Mr Kriek.
Opinion polls show that eight out of ten New Zealanders are opposed to battery hen cages and SAFE believes the public will have been shocked at the sight of colony battery cages.

WATCH the Campbell Live item.