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December 13, 2012

HSI/Canada Calls on Canadian Retailers to End the Use of Gestation Crates in the Wake of Shocking Undercover Video

Investigation alleges inherent cruelty in standard industry practices

Humane Society International/Canada

  • Gestation crates prevent sows from even turning around. The HSUS

MONTREAL, Quebec -- Following the recent news coverage of shocking new video footage of inhumane treatment of pigs reportedly taken at a pig farm in Manitoba, in an investigation conducted by the organization Mercy For Animals Canada, Humane Society International/Canada is calling on Canadian retailers to join dozens of leading North American companies in pledging to end the use of gestation crates in their supply chains. HSI/Canada is also urging the federal government to assist the pork industry in moving to group housing systems through the investment of transition funds.

“The horrific treatment of pigs shown in this video is appalling, yet many of these inhumane practices remain standard industry practices,” said Sayara Thurston, campaigner with Humane Society International/Canada. “No one who has seen these images could justify confining breeding pigs in cages so small that they can barely move for virtually their entire lives. Retailers including Walmart, Loblaws, Sobeys and Metro have the power to end this practice in Canada, and they should immediately establish clear timelines to phase out the use of gestation crates on the Canadian pig farms that supply them.”

CTV’s W5 investigative report broadcast the undercover video, which revealed disturbing images of sows confined in barren gestation crates, sick and injured animals receiving no veterinary care, piglets smashed against a concrete floor in a failed attempt to kill them, and male piglets castrated with no anesthetic. Though shocking and disturbing, many of the practices documented in the undercover video are widespread on Canadian farms.

Confining sows in gestation crates has come under fire from veterinarians, farmers, animal welfare advocates, animal scientists, consumers and retailers. These cages are roughly the same size as a sow’s body and prevent them from even turning around. The animals are subsequently transferred into another crate to give birth, re-impregnated, and put back into a gestation crate. This happens pregnancy after pregnancy for their entire lives, adding up to years of virtual immobilization.

Since the beginning of 2012, HSI/Canada’s partner organization, the Humane Society of the United States, has worked closely with dozens of North American retailers, including McDonald’s, Safeway, Burger King, Costco, Sysco and Wendy’s in assisting these companies in developing policies to phase the use of gestation crates out of their supply chains.

HSI/Canada is urging the Canadian Pork Council to make significant improvements to their animal welfare guidelines, and to institute a phase out of gestation crates. In consultations with the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, HSI/Canada has previously advocated for federal investment in a transition program, including economic incentives, to facilitate a national move to more humane housing systems for mother pigs.

Facts:

  • More than one million breeding sows are kept on Canadian farms, the majority of them confined in cages know as gestation crates.
  • The European Union and nine U.S. states have passed laws to ban the gestation crate confinement of breeding pigs.
  • Renowned animal welfare scientist and advisor to the pork industry, Temple Grandin, Ph.D., is clear on this issue: “Confining an animal for most of its life in a box in which it is not able to turn around does not provide a decent life.” Grandin further states, “We’ve got to treat animals right, and the gestation stalls have got to go.”
  • Leading pork producers Maple Leaf Foods, Smithfield and Hormel have pledged to end the use of gestation crates at their company-owned facilities by 2017, and Cargill is already 50 percent crate-free.
  • A 2010 Harris Decima poll found that 95 percent of Canadians believe that animal pain and suffering should be reduced as much as possible, including for farm animals, and 93 percent of Canadians would support laws ensuring that all farm animals are able to lie down, turn around, and stretch their limbs. 

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Media Contact: Dean Pogas, 514.395.2914/514.261.6007, dpogas@humanesociety.org  

Humane Society International/Canada is a leading force for animal protection, representing tens of thousands of members and constituents across the country. HSI/Canada has active programs in companion animals, wildlife and habitat protection, marine mammal preservation and farm animal welfare. HSI/Canada is proud to be a part of Humane Society International—one of the largest animal protection organizations in the world, with more than eleven million members and constituents globally—on the Web at hsicanada.ca.

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