21 Jun 2013

Changes proposed to battery hen cage phase-out

10:24 am on 21 June 2013

New Zealand's animal welfare advisory body is seeking public feedback on its proposal to give some egg farmers more time to phase out battery cages and and start using larger colony cages.

The welfare code for layer hens will continue to stipulate that the use of much-criticised battery cages is to end by 2022.

But National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) chairman John Hellstrom says following independent advice it's proposing to delay the starting date for the phase out by two years, to 2018.

He says the industry has accepted that the cages have to be removed completely within 10 years but they have argued very strongly that starting the first stage four years after the code was impossible.

Dr Hellstrom says it will be difficult for farmers affected by the four year transition to get it done in time and that could cause a supply problem which would put the price of eggs up very sharply.

But he says the industry wants to keep the price and supply of eggs as even as possible during the transition which means the phase out would start in 2018 rather than 2016.

Dr Hellstrom says there would be a further reduction in 2020 and all cages would be removed by 2022.

The NAWAC proposal is open now for public submissions.

The Green Party and other animal welfare lobbyists remain opposed to egg producers being allowed to move from battery to colony cages. They want a ban on all cage systems which they say are cruel.

But Dr Hellstrom says that's not up for renegotiation in its latest proposal and neither is the 2022 deadline.