An animal activist organization in New Zealand has called for a ban on illegal egg farms after it carried out a televised expose that showed hens living in appalling conditions in illegal cages at some farms.
Hans Kriek, director at animal advocacy group SAFE group, told FoodNavigator-Asia that its activists investigated eight egg farms in New Zealand, of which four were still using old battery hen cages that were banned in 2008.
“The hens were found in terrible conditions, dead and dying hens were detected in the cages. Many hens were underweight, and suffering from severe feather loss. We believe that many minimum standards of care were breached,” he said.
Kriek said that these cages violated the Layer Hen Code of Welfare 2005 sets minimum standards for the farming of commercial laying hens.
The Layer Hen Code effectively banned the use of the old style battery hen cages from January 2008 by increasing the amount of space per hen and by requiring that cages must have doors that open over the full length of the cage.
“The old cages have doors that are smaller than allowed and also have steeper floor slopes and provide the hens less space. The code also requires that the hens are inspected daily and that they are checked for health and that dead birds are removed, all that clearly did not happen,” said Kriek.
Kriek added that his organisation has asked the Ministry of Agriculture and Forest (MAF) to close down the farms that use these illegal cages and carry out an audit of all cage farms in New Zealand to ensure code compliance.
Farmers' body terms said egg farms ‘rogue’, says industry is compliant
Michael Guthrie, chairman of the Egg Producers Federation of New Zealand, said the egg industry does not support illegal farming practices and does inform the MAF whenever it comes to know of such farms.
“The practices on this farm portrayed on the programme are abhorrent to our industry and this, thankfully, is an isolated instance,” Guthrie said.
“There are nearly 130 egg farms in New Zealand and it’s a case of a very small number of substandard performers damaging the reputation of the whole industry,” he said.
Guthrie also mentioned a legal obstacle in his body having any power to pull the tiny minority of delinquent farmers into line, because the country’s Commodity Levy Act does not even allow the body to expel them from its membership.
“If MAF decides it will be tougher on these types of operators they will get no opposition from us. We fully support strong action against rogue operators,” he said.