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Woolworths Campaign | MEDIA RELEASE | March 2009
Press Release courtesy of Greta Wilson

ACTIVIST.CO.ZA UNITES WITH OTHER ORGANISATIONS WITH A HEART IN COMPASSION IN WORLD FARMING-LED CAMPAIGN TO REDUCE AND ULTIMATELY BRING AN END TO INHUMANE BATTERY FARMING FOR LAYING HENS IN SOUTH AFRICA

South African farmer Mike Bosch of Boschveld Indigenous Chickens received world recognition in Brussels in January 2009 for his free range eggs and farming methods with chickens – the only farmer / producer invited to present a paper at the Global Animal Welfare and Trade Conference held in Brussels, thereby proving that brutal mutilation of debeaking baby chicks can and must be stopped…

“Hats off to Mike Bosch for leading the way to a better dispensation for the humble hen.”  So says Louise van der Merwe, the South African representative for Compassion in World Farming.  The organization has enlisted the support of activist.co.za, Biophile, urban sprout and Earth Artist in a bid to bring to an end battery farming for laying hens in South Africa.  Activist.co.za has placed a petition form on their website.

“I'm helping Compassion in World Farming (South Africa) conduct this online campaign in a bid to pressurise major South African retailers to end the cruel practice of battery farming for laying hens,” says activist.co.za Creative Director Mark Bromage.

Van der Merwe wears several hats as she is also Managing Trustee of The Humane Education Trust as well as being editor of Animal Voice magazine.  She is the CEO of Humane Education Publishers.

Outlining a practical example where a farmer has adopted humane farming practices with his laying hens, Van der Merwe cites Zimbabwean-born Mike Bosch of Boschveld Indigenous Chickens.
“Mike is leading the way towards Humane Farming for Laying Hens,” she notes.  “In January this year, Mike received world recognition in Brussels for his free range eggs and farming methods.  The way he chooses to farm with his indigenous Boschveld Chickens is proof that the brutal mutilation of debeaking baby chicks can and must be stopped,” she says.
Van der Merwe explains that the ‘excruciating’ operation whereby the beak is melted away by being pressed against a red hot blade, is inflicted on no less than 22.8 million chicks in South Africa annually so as to ‘fit’ them for a life of laying eggs in a battery cage. 
“Only a ban on battery farming for laying hens can bring a stop to this unconscionable mutilation and this campaign asks South African supermarkets to follow Woolworths' lead and start an immediate phase-out of battery eggs from their stores.  The petition will be forwarded to

  • Tessa Chamberlain, GM Sustainable Development, Pick n Pay
  • Brian Weyers, Marketing Director, Shoprite Checkers
  • Graham Claassens, National Brands Manager for Spar

Bosch was the only farmer / producer invited to present a paper at the Global Animal Welfare and Trade Conference held in Brussels in January 2009.  His Boschveld Indigenous Chickens is the first chicken farm in South Africa to have been accredited with the highest food safety and good agricultural practice certification by receiving GLOBALGAP SYSTEM and British Retail Consortium (BRC) certification for free range eggs and farming methods. 

The Albert Schweitzer Foundation will be doing a documentary on Boschveld Chickens later this year.  Schweitzer was renowned for his sense of compassion towards all living things.
Says Bosch,” My chickens can freely express virtually all their natural behaviours and can even roost in trees if they wish to. I even have some of my hens hatching out their own chicks in order to retain that mothering instinct that chickens have been known for throughout history.”

“It all started about 10 years ago when the price of dip went up,” he explains.  “I decided to try and replace dip to a large extent by breeding a chicken that would eat the ticks off my cattle at the water points. I experimented and eventually came up with the Boschveld Chicken which is an all-African indigenous cross-breed.  The Boschveld Chicken has reduced the need for dipping from 26 times a year to 14 – and because of this, there are fewer chemicals in the environment. I now have noticed that ox-peckers have returned to the farm too.”

The Boschveld Indigenous Chicken is in demand by small egg producers, rural households and organic grape farmers who want to use them to clean up the pests in their vineyards, dairy farmers for the control of flies around dairies, to name but one of several attributes of these fine indigenous chickens. 

“The Boschveld Indigenous Chicken is a beautiful, colourful, no-fuss chicken that has been bred specifically for African conditions from the hardy and feisty Ovambo chicken, the Venda chicken with her good mothering and prolific egg-laying abilities, and the Matabele chicken, which is big and burley. The hens each give us 240 eggs a year, and the cocks are in great demand,” says Bosch.

Van der Merwe explain there is therefore no pulverizing of newly-hatched cocks into fertilizer as is the all-around custom in the commercial egg industry.  The hens lay approximately 240 eggs annually for three years and after that they still have the capacity for a further 70-80 eggs.  The norm for battery laying hens is 300 eggs per year. 
At the end of their typically 3-year egg laying period, instead of off-loading his hens at the cull depots, Bosch sells them into Poverty Relief Programmes in rural areas where they can still run around laying eggs, go broody, hatch out their chicks, and, says Bosch “generally give people a leg-up when it comes to providing their own food.”
As a point of curiosity, a cost effective mule carts transport eggs or chickens on the farm in a bid to reduce noise and dust pollution to almost zero, while also lowering the farm’s carbon footprint and providing employment. 
As  Bosch’s chickens are not debeaked or detoed, they can peck and survive in a rural setting.  “When chickens are under stress, such as in the overcrowded conditions of a battery cage, they attack each other and that is why battery farmers debeak their chicks,” says Bosch. 

“My chickens are not under stress and so they don't go around attacking each other.  Free range farmers also debeak their hens so as to prevent them eating their own eggs. But a hen eats her own egg only when she has some sort of nutrient deficiency. My hens don't suffer from any nutrient deficiency. The fact is that humans come along with these artificial production methods that require all sorts of mutilations and chemicals and antibiotics to sustain them. It is a no-brainer that artificial production methods will drive us into trouble. I say we must work with Nature because Nature is smarter than all of us. The mistake factory farmers have made is to weaken the immune systems of their chickens. Breeding chickens that need environmentally controlled housing to survive is going about it the wrong way. My chickens must be tough enough to run outside 365 days a year. They must be tough enough to withstand diseases such as bird ‘flu.

Visit www.activist.co.za to sign the petition against battery farming for laying hens in South Africa.  The exact weblink can be found at http://www.activist.co.za/campaigns/2009/stopbatteryfarming.php

For further information on Ethical Consumerism, contact Compassion in World Farming at their website www.animal-voice.org, or telephone (021) 852 8160.  E-mail Louise van der Merwe at avoice@yebo.co.za.  The international head office for Compassion in World Farming has the following website: www.ciwf.org.

E N D S

EDITOR’s NOTES

DAY IN THE LIFE OF A BATTERY HEN – FAST FACTS

“Which comes first – the chicken or the egg?  You say I’m the lucky one because I get to live and my brothers don’t.  You incarcerate me in a cage so tight that I can hardly stretch my wing.  To fit me into this cage, you cut off my beak. My beak is what your fingers and lips are to you.  You do this because you say I am a cannibal and peck my cage mates.  Yet my whole being is to forage and peck.  People who’ve studied me in a natural environment say I make up to 15 000 pecks per day.  You laugh when I try to dust-bath on wire.  What a stupid bird, I hear you say.  Yet that is how I have kept myself clean for eons, before we became a tool of mass production.  To get to the food in front, I have to clamber over my cage-mates.  Oh yes, I remember now… that’s why you detoed me… so that I wouldn’t scratch out their feathers in the process.  My claws are designed to scratch vigorously in the soil, so that I may uncover things to eat.  I will die, never having basked in the warmth of the sun, nor felt the earth beneath my feet.”
“Did you know…

  • that in roman times it was a compliment for a young man to be called ‘the son of a hen.’  It meant he was well brought up
  • my visual sense is highly developed and I can see more colours than you can
  • I have at least 31 vocalizations
  • chicks vocalize to one another from within their eggs as well as to the hen sitting on the eggs
  • unlike human brains, the chicken brain has a remarkable capacity to repair itself fully after trauma (something that still puzzles neuro-scientists)
  • According to a recent study by Siobhan Abeyesinghe, of the Biophysics Group at Silsoe Research Institute in London, chickens do not just live in the present but can also anticipate the future and demonstrate self-control, attributes previously only credited to humans and other primates
  • There are 22 million hens captured in battery cages in South Africa.

“Do you still think I am the lucky one?  Our fate is in your hands.  PLEASE BUY FREE RANGE EGGS.  Please join the ‘Mexican wave’ for kind food.  Wear a neon green kind food wrist band now to show your support for compassionate farming.  E-mail Compassion in World Farming (South Africa) at avoice@yebo.co.za or visit www.animal-voice.org, or telephone (021) 852 8160. 

COMPASSION IN WORLD FARMING (SOUTH AFRICA) 2009 CAMPAIGNS:

  • Spent Hens Campaign: Farmers and supermarkets wash their hands of end-

of-lay battery hens by allowing a system of squalor and misery to perpetuate.

  • Uncaged Campaign: To reach an agreement with supermarkets and

government for a phase-out of battery cages for laying hens.

  • Born a boy-calf Campaign: To stop the suffering of throw-away male calves      

born into the dairy industry.

inviting consumers to vote on which of the broiler (meat) chicken labels is the most deceptive! 

  • Free Africa Campaign: To achieve an official ban on the annual ritual killing of

the bull with bare hands in KwaZulu-Natal.

against accusations of being part of cruel practices of animal husbandry by
saying they support farmers who adhere to industry standards and codes of
practice. The trouble is that sow stalls for pigs comply with existing industry
standards and codes of practice. Compassion in World Farming (SA) says:
Dump these archaic contraptions of animal torture.   
 
Issued by          Greta Wilson Publicity
                        P O Box 340
                        Melkbosstrand
                        7437

On behalf of       Compassion in World Farming and activist.co.za
           
MEDIA INTERVIEWS / IMAGES
Greta Wilson, Greta Wilson Publicity
greta@wam.co.za
(083) 491 7236

CIWF
Beauty without Cruelty
Urban Sprout
PETA
Activist Factory Farms This campaign has been initiated by : Activist

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