Successful blockade highlights plight of hens

25 June 2012

Access to the largest battery cage facility in New Zealand was obstructed on Monday by animal activists in a dramatic dawn blockade in protest against cages for layer hens.

Eight metre high tripod structures with climbers suspended were set up at the entrance to the Mainland Poultry complex in Waikouaiti. The activists were from a collection of animal advocacy groups coming together as the Coalition to End Factory Farming, with SAFE in a supporting role.

"The action was carried out to highlight the continued cruelty of cages," says SAFE Campaign director Eliot Pryor, "and especially to stop the introduction of the proposed colony battery cage system which Mainland Poultry is trialing. The new cages are basically just battery cages with small modifications. These hens are deprived of everything natural to them, treated as egg production machines and will still have less area than an A4 piece of paper per bird."

While workers were able to walk into the facility, trucks that would normally be using the road to pick up the 400,000 cage eggs laid every day were unable to enter. After ten hours the activists were removed by a specialist police team with a cherry picker, and no charges were laid.

"Mainland Poultry has refused the media access to these new colony battery cages and it is easy to see why," says Eliot. "They do not want the public to see the abhorrent conditions the animals are forced to live in. They cannot explain to consumers why hens are crammed inside cages so tiny they have barely any room to move."

Secretly filmed images of the colony battery cages in the Mainland facility, showing a dark future for New Zealand's three million battery hens, were revealed on national television earlier this year.
The Minister for Primary Industries, David Carter, is considering approving the introduction of colony battery cages as part of the delayed welfare code for layer hens.

Colony battery cages do not provide the hens with the opportunity to display their normal behaviour as required by the Animal Welfare Act. Both New Zealand and international animal welfare agencies have condemned them, declaring the cages "fail to properly meet the hens' physical or behavioural needs." 

The action attracted huge media interest throughout the day, and the story was lead headline for a number of news outlets, including internationally, successfully highlighting the plight of hens.