They spend their entire lives in a space three-quarters the size of an A4 sheet of paper in wire boxes in dimly lit sheds.

The cramped conditions make their bones so brittle they have trouble supporting their own weight. At one day old their beaks are often sliced off by a hot guillotine to stop them pecking each other to death.

And after a year in these nightmarish conditions, during which time they will lay an egg every day, they are slaughtered for pet meat.

The horrifying truth behind Australia's $300 million battery hen industry has prompted the RSPCA to launch a new campaign against cagelaid eggs.

Switzerland has already banned battery cages and the rest of Europe, including Britain, plans to phase them out by 2012.

But in Australia there are no plans to crack down on the industry. And Australian shoppers seem happy to choose cheaper "cage eggs" over barn-laid or free-range produce, which can cost 50 per cent more.

The RSPCA will today shift the focus of its long-running campaign against cage eggs from government regulators to the 85 per cent of Australian consumers who buy the cheaper eggs.
Animal Liberation executive director Mark Pearson said consumers could avoid supporting the practice of de-beaking by buying certified organic eggs.

He said de-beaking was unnecessary if farmers did not cram animals into small spaces.

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