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February 5, 2009

Gestation Crates in Canada

Humane Society International/Canada

Each year in Canada, more than 1 million sows are subjected to some of the cruelest farming practices yet devised by the agriculture industry. These unfortunate animals are intensively confined throughout their pregnancies in metal stalls so small that the sows are unable to turn around. These sensitive, intelligent animals are treated like piglet-producing machines on Canadian factory farms until they are no longer able to produce.

A cruel farming practice

“Gestation crates” are metal stalls measuring approximately 0.7 m (2 ft) by 2m (7 ft)—barely larger than a sow. This crate is specifically designed to severely restrict a sow’s movement and thwart her natural behaviours. A breeding sow spends most of her reproductive life (normally 3-5 years) in such a gestation crate. She endures a continuous cycle of impregnation and birth (beginning at seven months of age,) producing more than 20 piglets per year, 15 percent of whom will die by the age of 2-3 weeks. The piglets who survive are taken away from her and crowded into pens with metal bars and concrete floors, destined for the same life as their mother or the dinner plate. After about three litters, she is spent, deemed “no longer profitable” and sent to the slaughterhouse.

The horrible effects of intensive confinement

The terrible consequences of such intensive confinement are numerous and diverse. Joint damage, leg weakness, decreased muscle mass, weakened bones, overgrown hooves, lameness,  impaired mobility, obesity, abrasions, urinary tract infections, chronic stress, depression, frustration, aggression, abnormal neurotic behaviour, cardiovascular problems and diseases such as Salmonellosis, epidemic transmissible gastroenteritis, Bratislava and respiratory disease are some of the problems these sows may experience.

Shifting away from such unnecessary cruelty

There are however, alternative ways to raise pigs and a shift to alternative housing systems has already begun in Europe, the states of Arizona, Florida, and Oregon, the Colorado Pork Producers Council, Smithfield Foods (the largest pork producer in the US) and Maple Leaf Foods (Canada’s largest pork producer.)  In fact, Sweden and the United Kingdom have already banned the use of gestation crates.  Similarly, celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck has promised to purchase pork from crate-free sources for all of his restaurants, and Burger King is increasingly purchasing crate-free pork, as supplies become more consistent.

What we’re doing

HSI Canada, along with our US affiliate, The Humane Society of the United States, is working to end the cruelty inherent in gestation crate confinement, achieving significant success in recent years.

Take action

  • Write to your Minister of Agriculture and ask him or her to ban gestation crates now.
  • Make a difference for animals at every meal with our Guide to Meat-Free meals.

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