Working towards a more compassionate world through education and advocacy

Let us be reminded... !

This Size 7 pair of shoes occupies a floor space that is identical in size to the space allowance of a laying hen in a battery cage, namely: 450 sq cm.

When we put on our shoes in the morning, let us be reminded on a daily basis that if we eat eggs, we should buy only certified free range eggs.

By doing so we set another hen free from torment. Or we can eliminate eggs from our diet altogether.


Mr Luyanda Mahlanza

Project Leader for the development of Standards in Agriculture

South African Bureau of Standards


24th August 2019

Re: For the next 20 years, South Africa’s laying hens will remain confined in a space allowance of 450 sq cm per hen!

Dear Mr Mahlanza,

It is with deep dismay that we learn that the SA Bureau of Standards is instrumental in the passing of a resolution that will confine the nation’s 25 million laying hens to a space allowance, per hen, of just 450 sq cm - right up until 1 January 2039. I refer to SA National Standards No 1758.

It is of no comfort whatsoever that in terms of the resolution, the installation of new cages, as from this year, must make provision for a miniscule extra bit of space per hen – from from 450 sq cm to 550 sq cm. What is deeply disturbing is that the resolution was adopted despite volumes of scientific evidence confirming the immense cruelty that goes hand in hand with the battery cage system for laying hens. In this regard, we refer to the following extracts from recent issues of Poultry Bulletin, the South African Poultry Association’s own mouthpiece:

Poultry Bulletin: March 2017, volume 6, issue 03

Poultry Bulletin: April 2017, volume 6, issue 04

Poultry Bulletin: March 2018, volume 7, issue 03

In a two-part series titled the the Cage Free Revolution, egg farmers are advised 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.”

Other quotes from the two-part 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.”

  • 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”.

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

The resolution to keep hens in intolerably small spaces was taken, as I understand it, due to consideration for the farmers who have invested in battery cage installations.

In the world in which we live today, humans are conscious of the fact that inhumanity cannot be justified on the basis of economic benefits. Slavery and apartheid were justified on this basis and yet, in our modern consciousness, both are reviled for their hideous inhumanity. Our treatment of laying hens is a hideous inhumanity and an unforgivable blight on our collective human conscience.

Just because we are talking about chickens here, doesn’t mean we, as humans, are not affected. On the contrary. We are fundamentally affected in the sense that we cannot claim our Constitutional Right to Human Dignity when we actively participate in what we know to be cruelty towards those at our mercy.

Thank you for your consideration of this letter. We appeal to SABS to reconsider the National Standard applicable to laying hens. The South African government has stated that it supports the Five Freedoms for farmed animals as endorsed by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). As you know, these freedoms are:

  • Freedom from hunger and thirst

  • Freedom from discomfort

  • Freedom from pain, injury and disease

  • Freedom to express normal behaviour

  • Freedom from fear and distress

Noteworthy is the fact that only one of these Five Freedoms is available to the 25 million laying hens trapped in battery cages.

We, as Compassion in World Farming (South Africa) respectfully request that the SABS dissolves the Resolution to continue the battery system, and introduces in its place an urgent phase-out of all cage systems for laying hens.


Louise van der Merwe

SA Representative: Compassion in World Farming

P O Box 825, Somerset West, 7129

Tel: 021 852 8160

Cell: 082 457 9177

Bring on plant-based eggs!


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