A group of activists has broken into a Foxton egg farm, taking 20 battery hens and promising them a better life.
But the farmer says his operation is not cruel, his hens live longer and lay more than free range hens, and if he can catch the activists, he will press charges.
Activist spokesman Mark Eden said that was just what he wanted after the Sunday morning "raid" on Turk's Poultry Farm in Foxton involving 10 people.
"I'm hoping for it. As far as we're concerned, the more publicity the better so if he wants to prosecute us that's great. I'd like to get him in court," he said.
"I'm quite happy to get arrested for this."
Wellington man Mr Eden, who described himself as a fulltime animal rights activist, said the 20 seized hens were spread among the activists "from here to Foxton".
He promised there would be more raids throughout New Zealand over the summer, with activists based in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.
"Fifteen years of lobbying and doing things through the proper channels has totally failed."
He said battery cages were cruel and should be banned, and that had been accepted by a Parliamentary committee but then not enforced.
"Obviously we can't save all the hens but we're going to save as many as we can and use those rescue raids to put pressure on the Government and on the industry," he said.
"We're going to use direct action, civil disobedience and cause as much disruption for the farmers as we can."
He said the Government's lack of action on battery farming had left them with no choice.
In July Agriculture Minister Jim Anderton announced the Government had rejected two of three recommendations made by Parliament's Regulations Review Committee on problems with welfare rules for battery hen cages.
"We cannot create a seismic shift in the poultry industry if we do not know where we are going," he said at the time.
"Tens of millions of dollars of investment has been made in New Zealand's production systems".
Ron Turk, of Turk's Poultry Farm, said the 20 hens taken would be worth about $200.
"I would love to press charges. That's breaking the law, isn't it? If he's going to admit it, surely that's good enough reason to be able to prosecute him," he said.
"If I went in and pinched his TV set, he'd be pretty annoyed too, wouldn't he? It's no different.
"Just because they have a funny attitude to life.
"I've got very little time for these activists because they're fanatics.
"They don't really care about the welfare of the animal, they're probably vegans."
He recognised photographs by the activists as taken in a rearing shed but a break-in had not been detected before Mr Turk was contacted by media.
The farm had about 100,000 hens laying.
Mr Turk accepted the operation had recently been fined $34,000 for dumping feathers and tonnes of chicken guts.
"It was a mistake we made and we paid the price."
He denied caged hen farming was cruel.
"We can prove things like our death rate in battery hens, or caged hens. . . our death rate will be probably quarter of a free range farm.
"Working with the chooks in cages is far more healthy for the people.
"We get better production out of them than free range. We use less drugs, in fact we don't use any drugs whereas free range, they have to use antibiotics."
He also said caged hens did not require de-beaking, as free range did.
"Our birds live longer, live better, healthier, not so many die."