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11th November 2019



Pick n Pay holds the key to better lives for laying hens.

Scientific research confirming the massive suffering of hens in battery cages has resulted in The World Organisation

for Animal Health (OIE) proposing new global minimum standards for the housing of laying hens.

However, the South African government will only give its vote in favour of these new global standards if it has the backing of the local egg industry. The local egg industry says its support depends on Pick n Pay.

Now Compassion in World Farming (SA) has written an Open Letter to Pick n Pay Director Jonathan Ackerman appealing for him to use his powerful influence to support better lives for laying hens.

South Africa

Compassion in World Farming (SA)

is affiliated to the Humane Education Trust

Registration Number: IT450/2001;

NPO No. 039-611-NPO; PBO No. 130004237

P O Box 825, Somerset West, 7129 South Africa

Tel:  +27 (0)21 852 8160; Mobile: +27 082 457 9177


Dear Mr Ackerman,

We write to you with a heartfelt request. Please use your powerful position to support the World Organisation for Animal Health’s draft new global standards for laying hens.



The South African Poultry Association (SAPA) resolved at its congress last year to keep laying hens in tiny battery cages for the next 20 years - right up until 2039. The space allowance per hen in these cages is just 450 sq cm – the size of a pair of size 7 shoe prints – for life! 


Compassion in World Farming (SA) raised a public objection to SAPA’s resolution and the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) which is currently setting new standards in agriculture, convened a meeting of stakeholders at its premises on 29th October 2019 to discuss the issues. 

(See our Press Release).


At this meeting, also attended by me, SAPA’s delegate, Colin Steenhuisen said he had discussed with you the way forward regarding demand by the animal welfare lobby for the abolitions of cages and that “they (Pick n Pay) acknowledged that consumers should have a choice” (between cage and cage-free eggs).




However, we submit that 99.9% of Pick n Pay shoppers have never set foot in a battery cage shed and do not have the full and proper knowledge upon which to base an informed choice. Instead, they depend on you, as a retailer, to ensure that the food they choose has been produced humanely.

Yet, it is beyond doubt that ‘humane’ cannot be ascribed to the production of battery eggs.  SAPA’s resolution to keep battery cages for the next 20 years, flouts voluminous international scientific research placed before the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) proving that the welfare of laying hens is severely compromised by conventional cages. On the strength of this research the OIE has published draft new global minimum standards for laying hens that are expected to come up for adoption at the OIE General Assembly in May 2020. 


These new minimum standards acknowledge,

for example:

  • That laying hens should be housed so that they are able “to adopt normal postures” and have “sufficient space for the expression of locomotory behaviours that contribute to good musculoskeletal health and plumage condition” 

  • That hens’ behaviours include walking, running, leaping, turning, stretching legs and wings, wing flapping, feather ruffling, tail wagging, and preening

  • That some of these behaviours are desirable for “improved leg and wing bone strength”

  • That dust bathing is a “complex behaviour providing body maintenance benefits”

  • That foraging is a “motivated behaviour”

  • That nesting is a “motivated behaviour”

  • That perching is a “motivated behaviour”

Please use your powerful position as a leading food retailer in Africa to help unite the global egg industry towards better welfare for laying hens. Your support for the OIE’s draft standards now on the table, will assist South Africa’s delegate to the OIE, DAFF’s Dr Mphane Molefe, to join the lobby of support for the adoption of these new standards. The current OIE draft standards have already been diluted to take account of concerns raised by South Africa. 


Perhaps of specific interest to Pick n Pay is the International Egg Organisation’s conference held in Monte Carlo in April this year. It was here that current IEO chairman Tim Lambert from Canada alerted delegates that consumer demands were changing due to a new value system spreading around the world. He said that a value-based culture, which included animal health and welfare, was key to corporate sustainability.  (Info: Poultry Focus, Volume 7, issue 5, May 2019).


Here locally in South Africa, Poultry Focus recorded that of the nearly 1.9 million live end-of-lay hens sent to cull traders for sale around South Africa in the first six months of 2018, some 11500 of them were in agony from broken legs and cloacal prolapses, or died of stress, trampling, or extremes of temperature before reaching the cull outlets.


The suffering is so immense. By advising SAPA as well as Dr Molefe that Pick n Pay is in support of the OIE’s new draft Chapter on laying hens, you will be making a global contribution to values-based food production and a kinder world. We implore you to do this.

Kind regards,


Louise van der Merwe 

Representative in South Africa: Compassion in World Farming

"Cages are cruel and cause immeasurable suffering to laying hens"  

19th November 2019



“We are in discussion with our suppliers to review the current situation and the proposed amendments and the relevant impacts. We will be able to update you as soon as these discussions are completed.”

19th November 2019



19th November 2019:


Dear Andre,

Thank you for your email.

We request Pick n Pay to also take into consideration the following highly relevant information:


Rapid Corporate change:

Since 2016, there has been a wave of cage-free egg commitments from many of the world’s most influential food companies - all pledging to move to a cage free egg supply by 2025 or sooner. Many of the companies have made global commitments, recognizing that caged systems for laying hens are outdated, unwanted by consumers, and do not deliver a decent quality of life for hens. Major restaurant chains like McDonald’sPanera, and Taco Bell have made commitments, as have top supermarkets like KrogerTrader Joe’s, Tesco, Sainsburys, Coop, Conad and Walmart.

Major food service companies have also committed, including  Sodexo and Compass, the biggest food service companies in the world. In addition, companies are competing to move away from cages more quickly – for example,

in 2019 leading Italian manufacturer, Barilla Groupcompleted the switch to 100% cage-free eggs across its entire supply chain, one year ahead of its 2020 commitment. After completing the transition in the USA, Turkey and Brazil, the company reached its commitment to only source eggs from barn systems globally well ahead of schedule.


Advice contained in the South African Poultry Association’s own official mouthpiece, Poultry Bulletin, clearly condemned the continued use of battery cages:

A two-part series titled the The Cage Free Revolution advised egg farmers to make the move to cage-free as

“no amount of improved management can compensate for the welfare issues inherent in the (battery cage) system.”

This two-part series is to be found in Poultry Bulletin: March 2017, volume 6, issue 03 and Poultry Bulletin: April 2017, volume 6, issue 04  


Other quotes from this series include:


  • “Scientific research has demonstrated that conventional cage systems deny birds the opportunity to exhibit a number of key behaviours which are fundamental to their welfare, resulting in increased levels of frustration, pain and stress.  These important behaviours include the opportunity to build a nest, preen, stretch and flap their wings, perch and dust-bathe.”


  • “There is a tendency amongst producers to argue that cost-effectiveness and disease control make caged systems the only viable production system in a hungry world but this argument ignores half a century of thorough research into laying hen welfare and thus plays into the hands of the animal rights activists.”


  • “Scientifically, (egg) producers are on shaky ground if we try to defend our production system as humane.”


  • “Hen welfare is rapidly becoming a ‘horizon issue’ for South African producers – an issue which could have profound consequences for producers if we do not recognise it, evaluate it and respond to it, effectively, in time. The speed with which major US and UK corporations have announced their commitment to cage-free production has demonstrated how quickly a shift can be imposed on an industry that has not paid enough attention to the external landscape.”


  • “The cage-free revolution is moving rapidly through the world and the South African egg industry should make sure that they are prepared to accommodate the change.”


  • “It is virtually impossible for a business to defend itself against a YouTube or Twitter attack, unless it has nothing to be defensive about.”


A year later, Poultry Bulletin tries another tack to encourage egg farmers to become more humane. In its March 2018 issue (volume 7, issue 03), egg farmers are advised that hens in kinder housing systems will produce more eggs!


Titled “Spend a little to LAY A LOT”, the article states that “although it may cost more, at first anyway, to implement new housing systems for commercial layers, there are definite benefits over time in terms of eggs per hen, feed conversion ratios and lower mortality rates”.

The article goes on to say:


  • “Yet the biggest benefit” (in moving away from battery cages towards other housing systems), “clearly lies in meeting the concern of consumers for the welfare of animals”.


I thank Pick n Pay for its consideration of this important additional information.

Kind regards,



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Intl: +27 21 852 8160  .  Tel: 021 852 8160  .  Fax: 021 4131297



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