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What About Battery Hens Now?

The presence of a battery-egg production farm in north Canberra has attracted controversy for well over a decade.

Parkwood Eggs at west Belconnen was "raided" by Animal Liberation in 1995, and 14 activists chained themselves to the battery cages. Four were arrested including actress Lynda Stoner. During the ensuing court case, the magistrate did not uphold the charges stating it was "impossible not to be overwhelmed by the evidence presented (that) producing eggs by means of battery farming hens is inherently cruel to the hens" and Parkwood Eggs "were no exception" to this finding.

Now, a new controversy appears to brewing after a group of residents contacted The Canberra Times to voice concerns over treatment of the 250,000 hens housed at Parkwood. They claim a brief glimpse of a fox alerted them to several emptied battery-hen sheds at Parkwood earlier this month.

Taking an evening walk on land bordering the egg production complex, they noticed shed doors were open. They also heard noises that suggested there might be hens inside the open sheds.

What they did next after much discussion and angst over ethics, trespass and moral responsibility wasn't legal but was motivated by concerns over animal welfare. They decided to take a quick look into the sheds to allay fears about foxes getting in and killing hens.
A report issued earlier this month by Advocates for Animals explores a potential link between avian influenza and factory farming of poultry. It claims intensively farmed poultry are "inevitably in unnaturally close contact with their own wastes" and if infection enters a shed "it will spread rapidly and the levels of circulating virus will be greatly increased."

The report claims the avian influenza virus H5N1 is transmitted from the faeces of infected birds and says a recent FAO study stated "poultry production and commerce have played the largest role in the spread of the disease."
But battery-egg production is likely to be at odds with UN criteria requiring nominations to prove a commitment to sustainable land use and ecosystem management.

Meanwhile, the chooks "rescued" last week are adjusting to a new life over the border. Their rescue squad, who joke about calling themselves The Other Canberra Raiders, say they have one regret it takes around four hours per chook (aided by warm soapy foot baths and soothing classical music) to gently pick the rock-hard accretions of manure off their feet.

"It's stinky messy work, but worth it when you see chooks being able to walk rather than hobble across the grass," said one of the raiders.

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