SPCA NZ opposes colony cages for hen farming because the cages do not meet the welfare needs of the animals.
Like SPCAs around the world, SPCA New Zealand opposes the use of battery and colony cages for hens and has made these views clear to the industry and the Government. Some European countries have banned cages and some major supermarket chains overseas refuse to take eggs from farms where hens are caged.
“Colony cages are bigger than battery cages but they contain more birds. So the amount of space per animal is still very small – about the size of an A4 piece of paper,” says Ric Odom, CEO of SPCA New Zealand.
“SPCA NZ opposes keeping hens in cages for their entire life, which is what happens with colony and battery cages. The hens never see the sun or breathe fresh air in their whole lives. They can’t walk about or stretch their wings. All they can do is eat food pellets and lay eggs. It’s a miserable existence that does not meet the welfare needs of the animals. We believe it is inhumane.”
SPCA NZ does acknowledge that there are sound commercial reasons for using colony cages. They allow for much more intensive farming and are more cost-effective than free-range or cage-free farming. However, this comes at the cost of animal welfare.
“Consumers have a choice. If they care for the animals from which they derive their protein, they can choose cage-free eggs. While currently this may mean they pay a little more, if the demand for cage-free eggs increases, we believe that farmers will adapt their practices to bring the cost down.”
Humane farming requires a high standard of welfare for the animals. Well-run barn and free-range hen farms provide higher standards of welfare compared with cages. Well-designed cage-free systems, with perches, nest boxes, and floor litter inside, allow hens to perform their natural behaviours and provide them with a better quality of life.
“SPCA New Zealand wants to see more cage-free and free-range hen farms in New Zealand. We would also like to see more regulated and more consistent labelling on egg packaging so consumers know exactly what they’re getting when they buy their eggs,” says Mr Odom.
“We have made moves in this direction with our SPCA Blue Tick accreditation scheme. Farming products that meet the SPCA’s high animal welfare standards have the right to display our SPCA Blue Tick certification logo and are regularly assessed by our third party auditors, AsureQuality. This includes unannounced checks to ensure that they are meeting our high animal welfare standards.
“We invite other farmers to either join our scheme or another independently verified regime with standards that will safeguard the welfare of the hens on their farms. This will also provide more clarity for consumers so they can make fully informed choices. At the end of the day, if consumers buy products made in ways that meet higher animal welfare standards, then farmers and retailers will meet that demand.”