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March 6, 2014

Canada Bans Lifelong Confinement for Pigs in Controversial Gestation Crates

HSI/Canada hails the move as an historic achievement for farmed animal welfare in North America

Humane Society International/Canada

  • More than one million breeding sows are kept on Canadian farms, the majority of them currently confined in cages known as gestation crates. Brent Melton/istock

MONTREAL—Humane Society International/Canada welcomes the release of the ground-breaking new pork industry Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs, which includes a ban on continuously confining pregnant sows in gestation crates. These cages confine sows so tightly the animals can’t even turn around, and are standard practice on pig farms throughout North America.

The Code, developed by the National Farm Animal Care Council, requires that facilities built or renovated after July 1st, 2014 use group housing systems for pregnant sows.

Sayara Thurston, campaign manager with HSI/Canada, stated: “This is a watershed moment for farm animals in Canada and throughout North America. It signals the beginning of the end of archaic, extreme confinement systems that consumers simply don’t support and which other countries have long-since banned. There is still much advancement needed to improve the welfare of pigs raised on Canadian farms, but this Code of Practice is a monumental first step.”

Gestation crates have come under fire from veterinarians, family farmers, animal welfare advocates, lawmakers, scientists, consumers and food retailers. Major retailers throughout North America have taken a stand against this cruel confinement system, with McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Tim Hortons and dozens more all mandating a switch to more humane housing.

In April 2013, the Retail Council of Canada and eight of Canada’s largest retailers, including Walmart Canada, Loblaws, and Costco Canada committed to sourcing fresh pork products from alternatives to gestation crates over the next nine years.

A recently completed economic study released by HSI/Canada confirms that the Canadian pork industry stands to lose significant ground to international competitors, particularly in the newly-accessible European Union, if a move away from gestation crates is not made swiftly and effectively.

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Facts

  • Nine U.S. states and the European Union have passed laws to ban the continual gestation crate confinement of breeding pigs.
  • More than one million breeding sows are kept on Canadian farms, the majority of them currently confined in cages known as gestation crates.
  • 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 North American pork producers Smithfield, Hormel, Tyson, Olymel and Maple Leaf Foods are moving away from gestation crates. Meanwhile, many family farmers have been raising pigs without the use of gestation crates for generations.
  • A recent national poll in Canada showed that 84 percent of Canadians support a complete phase out of the use of these confinement systems.

Media Contacts: Christopher Paré, 514 395-2914/438 402-0643, cpare@hsi.org

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