Anti-animal cruelty campaigners have shunned the shock of ugly, gross scenes showing farm animal conditions and are trying a different tack - comedy - to hook our chook attention.
Animals Australia has released a video campaign commercial using five famous comedians to shine a light on battery cage hens this week.
Shot in bright light on a largely white location, far from deformed and malnourished battery farms, comedians Arj Barker, Carl Barron, Anthony Lehmann (Lehmo) and Peter Rowsthorn profess their love for the "ladies" under the banner, "That ain't no way to treat a lady.”
The campaign, featuring rescued chickens seeks to raise awareness of hen suffering in battery cages and describes hens as social, intelligent, funny and inquisitive animals.
Peter Rowsthorn of Kath and Kim fame on a serious note asks: "Think about it if you got caught on a really crowded train and the doors shut and, there you were, for the rest of your life. That's not good. What if the person next to you was a knob.”
A 30-second version will appear on television but a longer two-minute video will appear online. Billboards are also planned.
Animals Australia communications director Lisa Chalk said animals were often categorised as either "friends and those who are food".
"Sadly, those in the food category don't get the same protection from cruelty – even though their ability to suffer is no different," Ms Chalk said.
"We enlisted our comics' help to get people to think about hens as more than egg laying machines – as living, feeling beings who deserve to have quality of life as well," she said.
She agreed comedy was a new tack for tackling cruelty and perceptions.
"So many animal welfare campaigns have to understandably focus on the cruelty – we've focused on bringing these birds to life for people, getting them to think differently about them, and through doing so giving them a reason to care about their welfare," she said.
Lyn White, Animals Australia's campaign director, said countries across the European Union were banning battery cages on cruelty grounds, but 12 million egg laying hens still endure miserable lives in battery cages in Australia each year. She said a promised government review was three years overdue.
“It's astonishing that Australia is lagging behind the EU on such an obvious animal cruelty issue. If a group of Australia's foremost comics think that there is nothing funny about life in a battery cage, we are confident that informed consumers will too, and use their purchasing power to help make cage eggs history.”
The NSW Farmers’ Association Egg Committee president, Bede Burke, said the campaign made ideological and misleading claims.
Mr Burke said laying hens had been in cages for decades and farms needed enough eggs to meet consumer demand.
‘‘We need modern farming systems to ensure we can keep providing a cost-effective highly natural protein food to consumers,” he said.
Mr Burke pointed to independently-reviewed Australian Egg Corporation-funded research by University of Sydney veterinary science researcher Jeff Downing. He found stress levels in hens were not greater in one particular housing system.
The study looked at 12 farms using free range, barn and cage production systems over 12 weeks.
"When we combined the results of each housing system there were no statistical differences between corticosterone levels (stress level indicator) in cage, barn or free range hens," Dr Downing said of his 2012 research.