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Pork Producers Agree to Phase Out Gestation Crates Across All of Canada

An agreement between the Canadian Pork Council and the National Animal Care Council will phase out the use of all gestation stalls for pregnant sows in Canada by the year 2024.

Animal welfare advocates have long opposed the use of gestation crates, which has been a common practice in both the U.S. and Canada. The Canadian hog housing agreement endorses blunt trauma for euthanasia including the practice know as “piglet thumping,” but bans the use of a gunshot to the head.

Under the agreement, all new barns constructed after July 1, 2014 will use open housing for gestating stalls where sows can be kept for 28 days after insemination plus up to seven more days as they are moved to open housing. All of these conditions are elements of a Canadian agreement to settle so-called hog housing issues, which is now open for public comment.

The agreement does not include any further restrictions on distances that hogs may be hauled, and tail docking and castration are still allowed with new provisions for controlling the pain those practices might cause. Tooth removal is restricted to only overly aggressive piglets that might cause damage to other animals. Finally, experts on the agreement say boars cannot be injured while stopping them from fighting during transport.
The comment period on the agreement will run for the next 60 days.

In the U.S., animal welfare activists have sought both state-by-state bans on the use of gestation crates and more recently the volunteer enlistment of  restaurants and retailers in a campaign not to buy pork from farms that use the devices. McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s , Applebee’s, Subway, Wienerschnitzel, Oscar Mayer, Costco, Safeway, Kroger, Chili’s and IHOP are among the businesses promising to eliminate the small cages used to confine breeding pigs from their own pork supply chains.

Canada’s agreement is betting on the phase-in period being enough to offset industry concerns about cost while satisfying consumers and animal welfare advocates.  The draft code calls for housing gilts in groups prior to breeding and then housing gilts and sows by size. From weaning to mating, the draft code suggests sows can be kept in individual stalls or in groups. The changes impact barn design and how much space is dedicated to each animal.

For all housing newly built or rebuilt or brought into use for the first time after July 1, 2014, mated gilts and sows must be housed in groups, according to the draft.  The public comment period extends through Aug. 3, 2013. The final pig Code of Practice is expected to be released before the end of 2013.

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  • Marge Mullen

    Why eleven years????