|Sun-Herald photo caption: Clipped...barn-layer chickens from Buchanan
Our big appetite for eggs
|The public assumes that because these eggs have been endorsed by the RSPCA that they are cruelty-free and welfare-friendly--sadly, in this instance, this is not the case.
THE SUN-HERALD by Maxine Frith Mar 2008 3/2/2008
Click here for direct link to source
The RSPCA is endorsing a range of eggs which Animal Liberation
says are laid by chickens kept in inhumane conditions.
The RSPCA gives its official seal of approval to Pace Farm
It receives 2 per cent of the wholesale price of the eggs, which
are sold under its "choose wisely" accreditation scheme.
But pictures obtained by The Sun-Herald show hens at a
Pace Farm facility in Buchanan, near Newcastle, in cramped
conditions with no outside access.
Many have large amounts of feathers missing where they have
pecked each other, a sign that experts say shows they do not have
The birds have also had their beaks clipped - a practice known
as "debeaking" which involves cutting the beak with a heated blade
in order to stop the birds cannabalising each other.
Campaigners have called on the RSPCA to stop endorsing all
barn-laid eggs - not just those produced by Pace Farm - saying
customers are being misled about the welfare standards behind such
An Animal Liberation spokeswoman said the group was shocked by
the conditions at the Buchanan facility.
"They are exhibiting the type of behaviour that is normally
associated with caged birds," she said.
"The public assumes that because these eggs have been endorsed
by the RSPCA that they are cruelty-free and welfare-friendly -
sadly, in this instance, this is not the case."
Barn-laid eggs do not have to conform to the same criteria as
free-range products, where the hens must have access to outside
areas during the day. Barn-layer birds are kept inside constantly,
in tiers, though not in cages. It is intended that they have more
space to move around and to nest naturally.
Ms Neil confirmed the RSPCA endorsed beak clipping of birds at
the Buchanan facility.
Animal Liberation said the RSPCA standard gives each bird an
amount of space equivalent to a piece of A3 paper.
Pace Farm is the biggest battery egg producer in the southern
hemisphere but also has free-range and barn-laid products.
A spokesman for the company refused to comment on the
allegations or the pictures, which were taken a week ago.