{It should be noted that this write-up has no empirical evidence as no rigorous research was conducted into these claims. These however are careful assumptions generated from logical considerations and from recurrent dialogue with producers within our cage-free directory with whom we have a remarkable relationship.}

Animal Welfare League is a Ghanaian animal welfare organization that works to empower local communities in Ghana to adopt proper animal welfare standards. Since joining the Open Wing Alliance in late 2021, we have launched an extensive cage-free project in Ghana, which revolves around a comprehensive approach encompassing three essential pillars crucial to the enhancement of chicken welfare: Producers, Corporations, and Consumers. We believe that engaging these three stakeholders is a comprehensive and inclusive approach of realizing change for millions of chickens in caged confinement in Ghana. By working with producers, for example, we aim to establish strong alliances with them, understand their unique challenges, and collaboratively devise strategies to ensure both productivity and improved welfare for chickens. To achieve this, we host workshops specifically designed for producers, focusing on the themes of enhancing poultry welfare and productivity. 

In the course of our work, we have deeply engaged with the entire stakeholder value chain of the poultry industry in the country and through recurrent discussions, meetings, and field visits,  have noticed a concerning trend; the use of second-hand cages (imported from the global north) by many farmers and producers in Ghana. This led me to delve more into this problem and try to understand what is happening.

Understanding how many farmers use second-hand cages would first necessitate understanding the second-hand industry as a whole (in Ghana, and Africa as a whole.) This is a big industry, which includes many products like clothing, electronics, cars, and machinery, often considered cheaper  (and at other times more durable) compared to brand-new products (especially for clothing.) For example, Ghana imports about 100,000 vehicles per year of which 90% are used vehicles, with an estimated value of USD 1.14 billion annually mainly from the United States, Japan, and Germany also, In 2021, Ghana  imported used clothing worth over $214M primarily from United Kingdom ($80.8M), China ($48.4M), Canada ($15.2M) Poland ($9.63M), and Netherlands ($9.3M).  Just like any other industry, there are both positives and negatives, with the positives including: increased economic opportunities for SMEs, growth of repair and refurbishment industries among others. However, second hand goods can negatively impact local industries and manufacturers by undermining domestic production and hinder the development of local manufacturing capabilities. Additionally, the unrestricted influx of used goods almost always results in waste management challenges, as most African countries are not equipped to adequately dispose and recycle large volumes of discarded items.

The same phenomenon applies with  battery cages. Second-hand cages are considered relatively more affordable, and durable, compared to new cages, importing a brand new cage costs relatively about $260-500 per set and a used cage costs about $200-210 per set. We contacted a renowned battery cage importer in Ghana who revealed that the cost of a newly imported battery cage cost around GHC $350-383 per set, however some used cages cost even as low as $60 per set thus appealing to many farmers and producers, who are similarly looking to reduce costs associated with poultry production. 

But you may wonder, how would this be relevant to our animal welfare, and cage-free movement in the first place? What does this mean for the Africa cage-free movement as well? Firstly, understanding how the battery cage value-chain system works would enable us to work effectively to address and counter this problem before it becomes a big menace if it already is not. It helps us see why the fight against battery-cages should be a coordinated effort by advocacy groups in both African and global north countries ( to tackle both the manufacture, export, and import of battery cages.) It helps us realise why this is a global problem that necessitates joint work and collaboration. For example, The Poultry site, indicated on their site that a ghanaian producer contacted them for battery cages to allow him expand his flock from 2,000 hens to 20,000 hens. The site went on to add that there must surely be thousands of egg producers in the EU who would be happy to donate their used battery cages to poultry entrepreneurs in Africa. This begs the questions, are poultry farmers in the EU able to send their used battery cages to africa? How many cages are sent to Africa? How many birds are being trapped by these imported cages? Secondly, cages, like any other product, tend to have a life-span around 10 to 15 years, however this can be more or less depending on several factors, including the quality of production, maintenance, and the specific conditions in which they are used. Many of the cages being imported to African countries tend to have a few years till expiry, yet the farmers who use them continue past their expiry dates. This not only poses a significant threat to the welfare of the hens confined in such cages, and to the consumer as well but also raises the question of ethics - why should countries that have banned cages in their countries be able to export these cages to less developed countries? Is this not a transfer of animal cruelty to Africa? 

In terms of the Africa cage-free movement, it is evident there is a strong need for research and more data on this phenomenon, as it can vary between different African countries. There is also a need for awareness about this problem, hence training different animal advocacy groups in Africa about this significant problem and how they can tackle it. Lastly, groups like Animal welfare league definitely need more funding to conduct research studies on this, and to evaluate the best ways and approaches to solve this problem. 







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You may already be aware but there is some academic work on the export of used battery cages: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1477-9552.12513

"The results suggest that the cage bans were associated with an increase in intra-EU trade, and also an increase in exports of poultry equipment from EU member states to non-EU countries where conventional cages are still permitted. The results suggest that some banned cages were likely exported to countries outside the EU to be used in egg production."

Yes, exactly, I think the authors are making the same point and that some of these non-EU countries tend to be African countries.

Would banning exports of cages be a net positive for animals, or would it make transitioning to cage-free in high income countries so much more expensive, with developing countries still able to buy new cages, such that it would be negative for animals?

I wonder whether Animal Policy International should consider bundling bans of equipment that would be used to produce animal products that don’t meet local standards in with the import bans they’re campaigning for.

Or buyback programs, in some cases, under which the cages would be recycled or destroyed.

We've decided as a society to grandfather a lot of stuff that isn't up to current standards for the rest of the stuff's useful life. For instance, I'm generally allowed to continue using older buildings that don't meet accessibility standards . . . but if I significantly update the building or build a new one, I have to meet current standards. Grandfathering is often relatively uncontroversial, as it can be justified on both fairness and rule-utilitarian grounds.

In a circumstance where you don't want to grandfather, there's going to be a deadweight loss someone has to bear. I'd characterize allowing cage export as the equivalent of partial grandfathering -- the prior owners only recoup a portion, but only a portion, of the remaining value of their capital investment.  I don't know much about intercontinential shipping or customs, but I imagine the companies selling the cages after the ban are making significantly less than is being charged for them in Africa.

Farmers are a powerful lobby in many countries, and farming is often a low-margin business. Moreover, to the extent individual farmers would be bearing the deadweight loss, they are often in lots of debt and are generally sympathetic to the general public. So a ban on export is likely to be politically difficult and/or require a longer transition period. 

If all that is correct, it might be better in some cases to couple an export ban with a publicly-funded buyback program that paid as much as the previous owners could have counterfactually received from the third-party market. This is only true if you think the export ban would have a counterfactual impact on the number of cages in use (which may depend on possible alternative locations and transit costs).

A greater reminder that Animal Welfare League is doing well. But more resources will enhance a comprehensive research on this issue.

Well done, Jacob!

Well pointed out. The issue of second-hand battery cage in Africa is just ticking bomb waiting to blow up with devastating welfare consequences.

why should countries that have banned cages in their countries be able to export these cages to less developed countries? Is this not a transfer of animal cruelty to Africa? 


I wonder if there is a problem of racism here, both rhetorically and genuinely. 

What do you mean here? Can you elaborate ?

I heard that there were cage-free activists who claim that some global companies' differential animal welfare policies in the West and in Asia is racist, and demand for equally good policies in Asia. I wonder if exporting some morally inferior (and abandoned) equipments to Africa is a form of racism, either rhetorically and genuinely. 

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