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Whistleblower exposes 'shocking cruelty to hens on New Zealand farm'

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

A former farmworker who wishes to remain anonymous, has revealed to SAFE the horrific conditions that hens are living in at the colony cage farm ‘Northern Eggs’ in Whangarei.

In May 2021, a former Northern Eggs worker approached SAFE with images showing hens left to rot in cages at the Whangarei farm. In an episode of SAFE’s podcast ‘Animal Matters’ released this morning, the informant described the abhorrent conditions and routine animal cruelty they witnessed.

"It’s not unusual to see guys spinning the birds around by their necks until their heads come off completely," said the informant.

The informant claimed that farm managers ignored multiple reports of animal suffering. SAFE alerted the Ministry for Primary Industries to investigate immediately.

This is the second time Northern Eggs has been scrutinised for animal cruelty. In December 2019, Newshub revealed footage showing dead hens in various stages of decomposition, as well as countless hens who were severely de-feathered and living among their dead cage mates. On both occasions, MPI found ‘no evidence of animal cruelty’.

Northern Eggs is part of the Independent Egg Producers Co-operative, which sells cage eggs under the brand Morning Harvest. Morning Harvest branded eggs are found at all leading supermarkets including Countdown, New World, and PAK'nSAVE.

SAFE is calling for an immediate and thorough investigation of Northern Eggs and a total ban on all colony cage facilities. SAFE Campaigns Manager Jessica Chambers said MPI is failing to hold this farm to account despite evidence that conditions for hens have not changed.

"Without a legal ban on these cruel caging systems, there is nothing in place to protect these sensitive, intelligent animals," said Chambers.

The informant alleged that MPI notified Northern Eggs prior to inspections taking place, which would then prompt the farm to dispose of any evidence of wrongdoing.

In a response to an Official Information Act request by SAFE regarding this matter, MPI confirmed it contacted the farm prior to visiting in May.

"Hens are living in truly harrowing and disgusting conditions, and yet MPI has not held them accountable."

"The fact remains that colony cages are just as cruel as the battery cages they replaced. The conditions are still in clear breach of the Animal Welfare Act, which is why we are calling on the Minister of Agriculture to ban colony cages in New Zealand."

"Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said ‘No smart person would invest in colony cages,’ at a SAFE political panel on animal welfare issues during last year’s election. Yet, Aotearoa is still waiting on leadership from the Minister on this issue."

"Colony cages are being banned around the world. The Minister needs to take urgent action on this issue if his vision to have ‘the best animal welfare standards in the world’ is to be realised."

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