So-called National Animal Welfare Advisory’s Proposal Shameful


Why the heck should battery hen farmers get to delay the introduction of bigger cages? Carrie Steele reckons she knows the answer.

Battery caged hens.

Battery caged hens.

I’VE JUST READ a newspaper report that the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) is proposing extending the timetable to phase out battery hen cages, following lobbying from the egg industry.
John Hellstrom (left)

John Hellstrom (left)

If the comments made by NAWAC Chairman, John Hellstrom, are quoted correctly in the article, then it’s true that my description of this so-called ‘animal welfare’ representative would be unprintable. Mr Hellstrom is now indicating that the decision to begin phasing out existing cages from 2016 was made under duress from “animal rights groups”, and that if his organisation had worked with “industry groups” more closely last year as to when they would have preferred to start the phase out (perhaps never?) then they would not be in the position now of having to ‘back track’. What an egg he turned out to be.
Colony caged hens.

Colony caged hens.

Mr Hellstrom clearly has his tail between his legs and is now ‘kowtowing’ to the same egg industry that he was so keen to be seen as not kowtowing to when the Layer Hens Code of Welfare 2012 was introduced. Mr Hellstrom now says this was “a stuff up”.
What will it mean if NAWAC backtracks? Battery hen cages will still be phased out by 2022, but the phase out period will not begin until 2018, instead of 2016. Hens will have to wait an extra two years before any of them have the opportunity of being in the new (hardly-much-better) colony CAGES. That’s another 10 years of waiting, just to see hens in a different type of cage.
Battery caged hens.

Battery caged hens.

The reason for this proposed extension is that the egg industry has raised concerns that it is not feasible to make the required changes by 2016, and they need more time. To start the phase-out in 2016 would apparently “create a significant disruption in the supply of eggs and a sharp hike in prices”.
Colony caged hens.

Colony caged hens.

Let’s read between the lines here for a moment, I’m pretty certain that the egg industry isn’t too worried about the consumer possibly having to pay more for eggs. Therefore, it must be the ‘significant disruption in supply’ that’s their primary concern: less eggs to sell equals less money to be made. This has nothing to do with the industry serving the consumer, so let’s be really clear about that. NAWAC is simply caving in to pressure from the egg industry, and as usual, business and revenue is at the forefront of the proposed changes. NAWAC talks about their priority being to have hens out of cages as soon as possible, but when might that be? 2099?
Battery caged hens.

Battery caged hens.

NAWAC (an independent body whose role is to give advice to the Primary Industry Minister on issues including the welfare of animals in NZ) is seeking public consultation on the proposed change to the code. The article conveniently omitted to mention how this consultation might be sought, or how submissions can be made. How much longer are we (‘the public’) happy to go on eating eggs produced by birds who live a life of abject misery, while the money keeps rolling in for the egg industry?
This just might be a good time to bear in mind that there is 213mg cholesterol in an egg yolk, and that there are lots of far better breakfast choices, like a nice bowl of porridge. For some of us, the only thing at stake here is animal welfare, as eggs have no place in a whole foods plant-based diet.
Colony caged hens.

Colony caged hens.

Whether or not you choose to consume eggs, I hope that you will make a submission opposing the proposed extension to the phase-out, keeping in mind that for the birds, it’s still just a move from one prison cell to another.
Go to: awsubmission@mpi.govt.nz and scroll down to ‘consultation’, or follow the link for a more direct route. Public consultation closes on 2 August, 2013. CARRIE STEELE

www.biosecurity.govt.nz/animal-welfare/codes/layer-hens/index.htm

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