Feathers set to fly over battery hens, say activists

Activists have broken into a Foxton egg farm, stealing 20 battery hens in a bid to give them a better life.

But the farmer says his operation is not cruel, his hens live longer, lay more than free-range hens and, if he can catch the activists, he will press charges.

Activist spokesman Mark Eden said that was what he wanted after the Sunday morning "raid" on Turk's poultry farm involving 10 people.

"The more publicity the better," he said. "If he wants to prosecute us, that's great. I'm quite happy to get arrested for this."

The Wellington resident, who describes himself as a fulltime animal rights activist, said the stolen hens were spread among activists "from here to Foxton".

He said more raids would take place nationally this summer as battery cages were cruel and should be banned.

"We're going to use direct action, civil disobedience and cause as much disruption for the farmers as we can."

In July, Agriculture Minister Jim Anderton said the Government had rejected two of three recommendations made by Parliament's regulations review committee on problems with welfare rules for battery hen cages.

"We cannot create a seismic shift in the poultry industry if we do not know where we are going," he said at the time.

Farmer Ron Turk said the stolen hens were worth about $200.

"I would love to press charges. That's breaking the law, isn't it? If he's going to admit it, surely that's good enough reason to be able to prosecute him," he said.

"If I went in and pinched his TV set, he'd be pretty annoyed too, wouldn't he? It's no different."

He denied caged hen farming was cruel. "Our death rate will be probably a quarter of a free-range farm," Mr Turk said.

"Working with the chooks in cages is far more healthy for the people.

"We get better production out of them than free range. We use less drugs, in fact we don't use any drugs whereas free range, they have to use antibiotics."

Mr Turk also said caged hens did not require de-beaking, as free range hens did. The birds were also healthier.

- NZPA

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