The Poultry industry desperately needs major reforms.
Presently, 88% of the roughly 3.5 million egg-producing Hens in New Zealand lead a miserable life in tiny cramped cages of battery farms.
These cages are illegal as defined by the ‘Animal Welfare Act 1999.’
The practice continues because of the much-abused loophole in the Act.
Three to six birds are crammed into each cage stacked on top of each other.
They live above their own excrement and frequently suffer from health problems due to constant exposure to ammonia fumes and faecal dust.
Each hen has floor space less than a piece of A4 paper. They stand on sloping wire mesh floors, which cause pain and injuries to their feet. The birds cannot stand up fully, walk, or stretch out their wings.
They frequently lose feathers and suffer painful skin damage from rubbing against their cages and mates. Overcrowding and frustration lead to aggression and hence light levels are decreased to virtual darkness.
The chicks usually have the tips of their beaks removed while very young to decrease injuries or cannibalism.
This process is painful, leading to difficulty in eating for the rest of their lives.
No Sun or Air
They never see sunlight or feel truly fresh air. They can experience osteoporosis and painful bone fractures, from being bred to lay eggs at an unnaturally high rate. They cannot nest, scratch, forage, perch, explore, or dust bathe, all of which they would do if they had access to outdoors.
In fact, they cannot express virtually any of their natural behaviours.
Even if their cages were comfortable, what struck me living in a cage for a whole month was the sameness of each day.
I had it infinitely better than the birds, with a laptop plus broadband connection, a nice view, and literally hundreds of visitors. Yet, when I got out briefly one day to empty my toilet bucket, I was surprised how delighted I was to see the view behind my cage.
The boredom and frustration that the birds apparently experience is almost incomprehensible. In the battery sheds, there are thousands of birds with nothing but the bare steel of their cage and their crammed cage mates.
They have nothing to do but eat, drink, defecate, lay eggs and fight with their cage mates for space.
That is their entire existence. All animals crave novelty, variety, and stimulation. This is not exclusive to Homo sapiens.
It has been scientifically proved that chickens are very intelligent, sensitive and social animals, with complex lives. There is no doubt that they suffer terribly in their cages.
It is not an exaggeration to say that their lives are a living hell.
What gives us the right to do this to them?
If we are to call ourselves a civilised society, then this must end immediately.
The problem is not eating eggs. Those who believe in the merits of eating eggs can do so.
Millions of people around the world do not eat eggs. However, we have an obligation to give the animals the very best lives we can while they are alive.
The minimum standard must be Free Range Farming, in which the chickens are farmed in the open air and can lead a life close to what nature meant for them.
Battery farming is a commercially driven option for maximising profits per square inch.
Edmund Burke, the famous 18th Century Anglo-Irish Philosopher said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good [people] do nothing.”
The birds have no voice. Therefore, the good people of New Zealand must speak out against this abomination.
Carl Scott is an animal activist, keen to ensure their freedom. Appalled by Battery Farming, he remained in a cage for an entire month (March 29 to April 29, 2011) to highlight the plight of layer hens held captive and ‘forced to lay eggs’ for commercial gain of poultry farm owners. He chose the ‘human cage,’ in Waikouaiti, a small township of less than 1100 people in East Otago, since it accounts for the largest battery farm in New Zealand. He lives in Waitati, a small village about 20 minutes drive North of Dunedin.
Readers who share the view that farm birds must be free may write to their local MP or to the Prime Minister (email@example.com).