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Chicken joins politicians for election debate on factory farming

Sep 9th, 2014 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

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A LIVE chicken named Hettie took center stage when representatives of five political parties were challenged on factory farming policies in Wellington.

Animal rights campaigner Hans Kriek put Hettie on a square board which represented the amount of space the hen would be entitled to in a battery farm.

Labour’s Trevor Mallard said the National Party’s plan to replace battery cages with colony cages by 2022 was unacceptable.

“The increase in the size of the cages for chickens is the size of a credit card per bird, you see how intensively those chickens are farmed now, the new system is one credit card per bird and that’s not good enough,” Mr Mallard said at last week’s meeting.

Farmer and National Party MP Shane Ardern agreed the upgrade was still cruel, but said pushing the price of eggs up with more humane methods would contribute to New Zealand’s poverty issue.

Mr Kriek said eggs were considerably cheaper now than they used to be, in comparison to many other commodities where prices had increasingly risen.

“Eggs are now about a third the price than what they were relatively 50 years ago,” Mr Kriek said of research carried out by Consumer New Zealand.

Candidates from National, Labour, Green, NZ First and Internet Mana accepted the invitation by animal welfare group SAFE to debate at St Andrews Church on The Terrace.

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AIM HIGHER: Green’s Mojo Mathers speaks out saying New Zealand must raise its animal welfare standards. IMAGE: Hayley Gastmeier

Greens animal welfare spokesperson Mojo Mathers said when it comes to animal welfare, New Zealand was moving backwards. “New Zealand is falling behind countries overseas, we are at least 10 years behind the European Union,” Ms Mathers said.

“It’s about time we stop pretending we’re world leaders.”

Former MP Sue Kedgley, who hosted the event, asked which parties would support a ban on feeding antibiotics to animals.

Antibiotic resistance was raised as a growing concern because it is commonly added to chicken feed in the industry.

The Greens and the Internet Mana parties both said they would support a ban.

“Humans are coming more and more resilient to these antibiotics and a large part of that is because of the antibiotics fed to animals that have come from factory farming practices,” says Internet Mana’s Miriam Pierard.

Mr Mallard said it was an issue not yet discussed by the Labour Party, and Richard Prosser from NZ First said his party did not have a policy on the issue.

Mr Ardern, said he was unaware of chickens being fed antibiotics in the farming industry.

A woman in the audience told Mr Ardern that animal welfare issues were the reason she was switching her vote from National this election.

Wrapping up the debate, Ms Kedgley said there had been a huge shift in thinking, understanding and awareness about animal welfare, compared to when she first entered parliament in 1999 and was ridiculed for raising the issue.

“The sort of practices we are seeing out there are going to have to go, the only question really, is when.”

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