NAWAC to seek further advice on the feasibility of the intermediate transition steps for the removal of battery cages

Date:
Media contact: Trina Saffioti

The National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) today announced that it has commissioned an independent assessment of the practicality and feasibility of its transition dates for phasing out battery cages for layer hens. NAWAC commissioned the assessment in light of concerns raised by the egg producers industry about the ability of famers to meet the intermediate transition steps that lead up to the final date to cease battery farming.

The Layer Hens Code of Animal Welfare 2012, which NAWAC developed, was issued in December 2012. The most significant effect of the code is that it requires battery cages to be phased out by 31 December 2022. There are three transition steps within the ten year period:

  • Cages installed before 31 December 1999 to be replaced by 31 December 2016;
  • Cages installed before 31 December 2001 to be replaced by 31 December 2018; and
  • Cages installed before 31 December 2003 to be replaced by 31 December 2020.

Dr John Hellström, Chair of NAWAC, says the assessment will only consider the transition steps. “The Egg Producers Federation (EPF) has told us that, although the industry can meet the 2022 end date for the ceasing of battery farming, many farmers will struggle to meet the transition steps. The EPF does however, support the concept of transition steps to minimise disruption to egg supply and improve the welfare of layer hens during the next 10 years. NAWAC believes that it is fair and reasonable to obtain and consider an independent assessment of the time required for individual egg producers to change to alternative forms of hen housing.”

Dr Hellström notes that the transition process is an important part of the welfare gains that will come from the new code. “The code of welfare demonstrates that NAWAC is committed to the welfare of hens. It requires that battery cages be phased out and that hens live in an environment that meets more of their welfare needs. This allows for a range of normal behaviours, such as nesting, perching, pecking and scratching. This independent assessment will allow us to consider the concerns of the egg farming industry about the transition steps, and provide advice to the Minister for Primary Industries.”

A report on the assessment is expected to be discussed by NAWAC in mid-May. If NAWAC then considers that the transition dates should be revised the rationale for this will be consulted with the public.

For further details please contact:
Trina Saffioti
04 894 0826 or 029 894 0161

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Who will conduct the assessment and what are their credentials?

Simon Harris from Harris Consulting in Christchurch will conduct the assessment. Mr Harris has spent over fifteen years as a consultant specialising in environmental and resource economics and business analysis.

What are the next steps?

The report’s findings will be discussed at the NAWAC general meeting on 15 May 2013. NAWAC will then make recommendations to the Minister for Primary Industries. If NAWAC proposes any change to Minimum Standard 12 of the Layer Hens Code of Animal Welfare 2012 (which sets out the transition dates), there will be a public consultation process.

If there’s a public consultation, when is it likely to take place?

This would likely be held in the middle of this year. The consultation would only cover the transition steps and would not include any other aspect of the code of welfare.

What is NAWAC?

The National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) is an independent advisory committee set up to provide animal welfare advice to the Minister for Primary Industries, including developing, reviewing and recommending codes of welfare.

What is the size of New Zealand’s egg industry?

There are around 126 egg farms in New Zealand housing 3.3 million hens, which produce around one billion eggs per year. The majority of the eggs produced are for the domestic market, but there is a small export industry.

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