Action Animal Rescue Team 7/9/2000
Tasmanian Battery Hen Rescue
From: Patty Mark

The Australian Action Animal Rescue Team completed a successful battery hen rescue in Tasmania (an island state South of the mainland) on the weekend of July 8/9. The seven member team accessed PURE FOODS INC. (Tasmania's largest battery hen producer) battery hen complex at Longford, near Launceston in the early hours. The activists gained access to all three sheds on the property (total of 45,000 hens), but the ammonia and noxious fumes were so overpowering they were only in one shed under an hour, and in the other two sheds only five minutes, due to burning eyes, sore throats and simply difficulty in breathing. Many hens were seen with blisters around their eyes. (a Government inspection - forced by all the media coverage the following day, confirmed the ammonia levels were at the "maximum allowable levels"....)

The most distressing aspect of the rescue was the discovery that ALL hens in the sheds had severely mutilated beaks (what there was left of them!). Patty Mark commented, it was without doubt the worst debeaking she had ever witnessed during her years of undercover rescue. Five hens were rescued and taken to a vet, one was so debilitated she was fed intravenously by the vet. Another was totally underdeveloped, with absolutely NO upper beak, and a long and twisted lower beak, she is being taken to a specialist avian vet for treatment.

Later that night the team also accessed the PURE FOODS barn-laid and free-range complex southwest of Hobart. (The barn-laid has RSPCA approval). While unable to access the sheds, the team found out the next morning (when they were accompanied by a 4 car contingent of media) that the same debeaking contractor debeaks the birds at this complex and that debeaking was "necessary". They refused the rescue team and the media permission to view the hens. It was noted, though a sunny day, no free range hens were visible, They were housed in a huge warehouse type shed with tiny pop holes (which were closed) leading onto a small area of ranged pasture that didn't look used.

PURE FOODS INC. succeeded in getting a Supreme Court Injunction banning the media from using our 'undercover/illegal' footage. Thankfully the media saw through this, and while unable to use our very revealing footage they still all ran good stories that night on TV. Every TV station on the small island state ran a story, some using footage taken at our press conference showing the badly debeaked hens.

We also got basically the FULL FRONT PAGE (in color) of the HOBART MERCURY, Tasmania's main and leading newspaper. This was partly due to PAM CLARKE, who is a much-loved local and it featured a huge photo of her. The five inch headline ran PAM'S BACK. (she had sort of semi-retired the past three years partly to ill health). There was a good write up about our rescue and this continued to page two (where we also had half the page) with another photo of Pam Clarke with Patty Mark holding one of the rescued hens. The two other newspapers in Tasmania also ran stories, plus there was lots of radio.

The Australian Agriculture Ministers meet on August 18 to discuss the future of battery cages in Australia. A two day meeting between the Government/Industry/some animal welfare groups - notably RSPCA and Animals Australia (the rescue team were not invited???) was held on Tuesday/Wednesday July 11/12 - with totally disappointing results. The report from this get-together will be presented to the Ministers on August 18, and a press-release reported in todays AGE stated, "Animal Welfare groups and Australia's egg producers have agreed on a plan to modify cages housing millions of hens...Australian Egg INdustry Association executive director Hugh McMaster and RSPCA President Hugh Wirth drew up a draft aggreement on hen housing yesterday... The statement proposed to phase out the use of certain cages and increase the minimum floor space of a standard cage by 20%..." no date was set for a phase-out. It seems the plan is to simply enlarge the "conventional" cage.

The rescue team vows to continue it's break-in rescues until all the hens are free, and appeals to all other animal rights groups to do likewise.

The following photos were taken by Patty Mark in the Longford PURE FOOD battery hen shed on July 9, 2000. Diana Simpson took all the video footage.

a) badly debeaked hen, as were ALL in the shed

b) rescue team members Yvette, Michael, Romeo and Pam hold rescued hens in an aisle in the shed

c) Yvette nurses a badly debeaked hen with Michael in the background.

For more information
about the
Action Animal
Rescue Team,
contact Patty Mark at
Action Animal Rescue Team 7/9/2000