I was recently contacted by a member of the public via Facebook. It was the sort of usual inquiry us caged egg farmers get – in the industry, we call this the Boogie Man syndrome. Egg farmers are used to not being liked. And who would like us. We’ve all seen the images – wide-eyed hens crammed into cages the size of a microwave, feathers balding, their pitiful squawking. It’s not a pleasant image for anyone to come across. And because these images are so appalling, it is easy to simply denounce the industry that could in any way condone such treatment.
And so, farmers are reduced to the monsters responsible for creating these images. We are the bad guys that people love to hate. And this hatred makes sense. When you are confronted with such a clearly horrible scene, someone must be responsible and the RSPCA tells us that there are culprits – the farmers! But the truly noble thing in this circumstance is not to yell and scream and blame the farmers, but instead to dig a little deeper beneath these images. That’s why I took the unusual step of responding to this Facebook criticism. Instead of being angered by the message, I reached out to this harsh critic and invited them onto my farm. They were shocked – monsters aren’t meant to be hospitable! They are yet to arrange a time to visit my farm, but the invitation has been provided. Because behind the Facebook images is the reality that farms with layer hens in cages are far less disturbing than the way they are portrayed.
Cages are far cleaner and spacious than they appear in the videos distributed across internet platforms. The loss of feathers occurs in older flocks of birds. Just as we grow thin and bald as we age, so too do hens. Upon visiting a cage farm in person, you will witness flocks of birds much healthier than their free range counterparts, with lives free from disease and a far lower mortality rate. It simply does not make sense for farmers to blindly cause their hens harm. A farmer’s livelihood is dependent on their hens being in good health. Give us the chance to show we care about our animals, rather than demonising us. We will show you how mythological the farming boogie man really is.
Farmers are not monsters. They are not evil people that wake up in the morning looking forward to hurting hens. They are people just like you, trying to feed Australian families while keeping their animals healthy, happy and productive.