Measuring public support for animal welfare legislation: A case study of cage egg production

Battery cages are an industrial agricultural confinement system used primary for egg-laying hens. There have been a lot of issues among advocates of animal welfare/animal rights and industrial egg producers as the hens are confined into cramp cages with no space to move and run around which is considered as animal cruelty to most people. (Wikipedia 2010)

Looking at the photo above (the light you see is from the camera, note the darkness at the far right of the photo), you can see that the hens are living in horrid conditions, imagine being confined to a small cage with no space to turn around and having to defecate and eat at the same area. The hens in battery cages do not see sunlight to prevent them from pecking and some animal advocates feel that it is a concern, as hens prefer to eat in brightly lit environments.

Legislation has been the first tool of the governments in protecting the welfare of animals. It is necessary because animal welfare is considered as a free and public good, which would lead the animals to be over-exploited by others if there were no rules to protect them.

In the reading, Bennett investigates the application of a survey technique, contingent valuation, to estimate people’s willingness to pay to support animal welfare legislation. (Bennett R. 1998)

2000 citizens in Great Britain were randomly picked for the survey. Questionnaires were mailed to households and those who completed the questionnaire were able to partake in a free prize draw in order to encourage people to complete the questionnaires.

Only 1% of the respondents said that they were not concerned that farm animals may suffer or be mistreated in the process of producing food and other agricultural products which means that a large number of respondents were somewhat concerned about animal welfare.

More than 50% of the respondents were concerned with the housing/living conditions of animals, feed and medicines given to the animals and the treatment of the animals during transport, at markets and at slaughter.

Thankfully, with the introduction of the European Union Council Directive 1999/74/EC, conventional battery cages would be banned in the EU from January 2012 onwards, which means that the number of eggs from battery cages in the EU states is rapidly decreasing. (Wikipedia 1999)

Switzerland and Germany have banned conventional battery cages as well and other countries like United States and Australia have also set higher standards with regards to conventional battery cages as well.

As people are more concerned about animal welfare, conventional battery cages would be ‘a thing of the past’ soon.

Questions I’d like to pose to the readers:

1)How do you guys feel about conventional battery cages?

2)Would you buy animal products if you know that the animals suffered in the process?

References

Bennett, R. (1998) Measuring Public Support for Animal Welfare Legislation: A Case Study of Cage Egg Production. Animal Welfare, 7 (1), p.1-10.

Wikipedia.org (2010) Battery cage – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [online] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battery_cage [Accessed: 25 Oct 2012].

Wikipedia.org (1999) European Union Council Directive 1999/74/EC – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [online] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Union_Council_Directive_1999/74/EC [Accessed: 25 Oct 2012].

-orube

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4 comments so far

  1. snowkinz on

    first time i heard of these battery cages! looks so cruel and evil to lock the hens up like this… they cant even move at all.

    the use of these battery cages are very bad. though it may be good for business purposes, eg saving space, but it is very cruel as these are living beings, they are not files or paper that can be stacked up.

    i dont think that people should patronize these sellers/farmers who condone such cruel actions to generate their products. This is like eating the sorrow of others (in this case, the hens).

  2. exstarlight on

    Truly, human beings are the masters of slavery. By the order of the food chain, humans are one of the creatures – if not – the only beings at the top of it. Animals don’t speak human language, let alone have any rights like any other humans would have (because these rights are designed by humans in the first place). By that context, humans have always seen themselves as the highest order of creatures in this planet – the superior beings. Animals (most of it) do not have a place in the human society as they’re a necessity for us to survive i.e. food.

    Certain cultures view a certain animals as Gods or their deities, thus by their own religious belief, they are mentally trained to view animals as the equal species – respect an animal as to how you would respect another fellow human. While some others regarded mistreating animals as a taboo, even if they don’t speak human language or do not posses the mental capacities to that of a human.

    I’m not aware if there are scientific consesus of any kind, whether animals have an identical set of emotions to that of a human. Though I do think that so long as a creature have a brain and a heart, emotions do exist – humans or non-humans. I’m not sure if I would view animals as an equal but I think that every living thing on this planet should be treated with respect (insects I’m not too sure though). For instance, slaughtering of animals should be clean and swift so the animal would not even feel the slightest pain. Humans have the mental capacity to make the world a more humane place to live in but I guess there exists a certain number of people who desire to be Kings or warriors e.g. hunting as sports, slicing the animal to a slow death so the meat will be more tender. Of course, that’s another topic for another debate.

    Objectively answering to your posted questions, I’m definitely against animal cruelty. These animal factories should have very humane conditions similar to that of a human working conditions. Then again, batteries cage or no batteries cage, these animals are still victims of slavery: chicks are born > feed them > breed them to adulthood > lay eggs > repeat cycle. I think stealing eggs from the ‘natural’ chicken hen is the lesser evil. The mama and papa hens get to look after their own chicks as a family too..

    & I would definitely avoid products that were tested on animals unless they are vaccinations to some disease. Yes, I think it’s a necessary evil – sorry I’m not perfect. Those animals that perished in the tes- uh. research died for a noble cause. They should be buried with state flags too.

    – exstarlight

  3. rururu143 on

    This article is insightful and at the same time heart-wrenching. It makes me wonder if the poultry items we eat today came from those horrible origins. About 70% of Singapore egg supply is imported from Malaysia and a large percentage of broiler (live) and frozen poultry from neighboring countries.

    I cannot be sure what kind of farming techniques is used by local egg farms but I’m fairly certain battery cage method is not practiced and would not have been tolerated. One of the poultry farm provided the following on their website:

    ZZZ operates a highly automated 13-ha farm at the Lim Chu Kang Agrotechnology Park.
    • 6 layer houses
    – each layer house accommodates 80,000 hens
    • 2 grower houses
    – each grower house accommodates 80,000 chicks
    • All together
    – 500,000 egg producing hens
    – 400,000 eggs produced daily
    • Closed housed system
    – environment and climate controlled
    • Most advanced fully automatic 5 row/8 tier hi-tech chicken coops

    Singapore food sources are approved by the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) who urged consumers to support the local farming industry by buying local produce. The eggs produced locally undergo monthly inspection and freshness tests by AVA to verify their quality. The date of production and farm code are also stamped on every egg to ensure traceability.

    I refer to a news article on CNA dated Sep 2012 regarding how local farmers are required to throw away unsold eggs due to excess supply from cheaper Malaysian imported eggs, which is very sad as we are throwing away these eggs and consuming eggs from unknown farming origins:

    http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1224197/1/.html

    I believe that consumers will not mind paying a little extra for something that can put their mind and conscience at ease. The worse thing is when consumers are not well-informed of such issues, and do not have quick and reliable access to understand the origins of the food sources. Unless well-labeled, generally consumers will not make the extra effort to find out what kind of farming conditions the eggs came from.. In Singapore, most of the eggs are simply labeled “fresh farm eggs”, which to me, does not say much and appears ambiguous. As a consumer, I’m ashamed to say that I will just buy any one of the brand without questioning.

    On the other hand I do understand the need for those business-minded poultry farm owners that practice battery cage method to capitalize on mass production which ensures economies of scale. But what motivates these businesses is due to demand. In this day of excessive and sometimes unnecessary human consumption habits, the result is increase supply and subsequently, wastage.

    “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed” Gandhi

  4. orube90 on

    @rururu143, exstarlight and snowkinz

    I think most of the food that come to Singapore are from battery cages/confined animal feeding operations plus, most of our products are airflow overseas we do not have much control over them. 😦

    Article from http://www.straitstimes.com/premium/forum-letters/story/offer-legal-protection-animals-used-produce-food-20120919 states that changes are taking place (slowly) to lessen the suffering of animals responsible for the many food that we eat.

    Most of us are money conscious, and we would tend to buy the cheapest food that we can get. Sadly, these are from animals who went through a lot of suffering before being killed for food.

    Why?

    Since we the consumers would tend to buy the cheapest product, the facilities would want to provide the maximum goods (milk, meat etc.) at the lower cost possible which derived to battery cages/confined cages. Those cages save space which means they can squeeze in more animals to produce more animal products at a cheaper costs and shorter time span.

    We must first change our mindset in order to make the world a better place for the animals. I feel that Singapore has a long way to go.


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