content with being the largest battery hen farm in New Zealand, Mainland Poultry
is planning on becoming the largest egg producer in the southern hemisphere, increasing
their flock size from 270,000 hens to over one million birds.
in Waikouaiti, a small beach side town north of Dunedin, Mainland Poultry contains
six laying sheds, each eight cages high, and one large rearing shed. And what
marvel of technology would be complete without a huge razor wire fence surrounding
its perimeter? Inside, the day-old chicks will live out their short and painful
lives, ending with slaughter at just over one year old. And just to add insult,
they have to endure bad classical music while they suffer.
Animals From Exploitation (SAFE) in Dunedin had been campaigning against Mainland
Poultry's huge expansion for about 15 months, including making Resource Consent
submissions and organizing many 'conventional' protests, we decided it was necessary
to take things a step further.
Easter Weekend May 2000
demonstration took place both outside and inside Mainland Poultry's Depot in Dunedin,
where Mainland's eggs are packed and distributed. The protest began with three
people locking themselves to machinery inside the egg packing area. With this
done, a group of about 40 people quickly descended on the plant bearing drums,
banners, a giant chicken costume, masks and a megaphone.
Our aim was to
effectively shut down the depot and attack them in the only place they will listen
to - their pockets. Halting the depot affects the whole of Mainland Poultry's
system. Since the depot is on a main road into the city, the protest was also
highly visible. When the locks were cut from the three protesters' necks (who
were simply let outside afterwards), the protest continued even more strongly
at the depot entrances. In an unplanned move, protesters sat down in front of
both the truck entrances, stopping Mainland from unloading or loading any eggs.
At this point the many police didn't really seem to know what to do, especially
as we were in two groups and kept changing.
The blockade lasted for over
three hours before six people were arrested for breach of the peace and later
released without charge.
The Barrel Blockade
In early June
SAFE managed to block off the only road access to Mainland Poultry's farm with
the help of three large concrete-filled barrels. The barrels had been fitted out
with lock-boxes so people could lock their arms inside the barrels. If this is
done with a chain of people and barrels it creates a really nice roadblock. In
this case, four people locked themselves to the barrels for over three hours,
accompanied by nine other protesters. The road was also blocked by police (a double
blockade) further down (so it could be argued we didn't really block the road
at all - it was the police).
Jeff Winmill, long time battery farmer and
farm manager of Mainland Poultry, made a brief appearance but quickly fled. He
was visibly angry but told the local newspaper there was no animosity held towards
us. However, he still won't let us in inspect the farm or even reply to our letters.
The four blockaders were each charged with 'Obstruction of a Public Way'
which is a minor charge. Even so, when the case was finally heard in September,
all four were found guilty and fined $480 dollars each, a figure which is very
high for civil disobedience.
We consider our actions perfectly legal and
reasonable and will continue to campaign against Mainland Poultry in any way we