Today's letter: Battery hens

23:00, Dec 13 2012

There have already been many words spoken and written about the New Layer Hen Code of Welfare that was released a week ago. Many of these have been angry or disappointed and there have also been many errors and much exaggeration.

It was, therefore, gratifying to read your editorial on Monday "Battery cages begone".

Your editorial captured the dilemma faced by the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee far better than any other analysis I have read.

A further 10 years of suffering in battery cages that will affect millions of birds sits heavily with Nawac, and the committee bears some direct responsibility for this by failing to ban cages in 2005 when the last code was written.

As a result the industry is now faced with a shorter time to get rid of battery cages than has been required in any country that has gone down this path.

The committee also has required a genuine transition rather than requiring a "phase-out" that would probably result in little change for nine and a half years.


As you point out in your editorial, we all bear responsibility for allowing this "shabby industry" to develop by demanding cheaper eggs while failing to recognise the welfare cost.

Now is the time to unravel that as quickly as we can and certainly a widespread rejection of eggs from battery cages could speed that up.

However, history doesn't provide much encouragement to believe there will be sufficient consumer rejection to make much difference.

As for the future of colony cages, the jury is out.

From a scientific perspective they provide adequate welfare that is certainly no worse than that of barn or free-range farms and may well be better as some barn and free-range farms are not well run, whereas most colony cage farms are likely to be run very well to recover their high capital cost.

Chair National Animal Welfare Advisory Council

The Southland Times