MONTREAL—The Retail Council of Canada announced that all eight of the largest Canadian supermarket chains—Walmart Canada, Costco Canada, Metro, Loblaw, Safeway Canada, Federated Co-operatives, Sobeys and Co-op Atlantic—will move away from gestation crate confinement of pigs in their supply systems over the next nine years. Humane Society International/Canada and The Humane Society of the United States applauded the landmark announcement.
Gestation crates are cages used to tightly confine breeding pigs to the point where the animals can’t even turn around for nearly their entire lives. The announcement comes at a time when the National Farm Animal Care Council—a governmental funded organization—is reviewing and revising its Codes of Practice and considering a nationwide phase-out of gestation crates.
In a press release, the Retail Council of Canada stated: “Increasingly, stakeholder expectations have…been changing and industry is being encouraged to shift towards alternative [gestation crate-free] housing practices. The Retail Council of Canada believes that sows should be housed in an environment where their pregnancy, health and well-being are taken into highest consideration.”
Sayara Thurston, campaigner with Humane Society International/Canada, said: “We applaud the Retail Council of Canada and its members for taking seriously one of the most critical animal welfare issues in food production today. The Canadian food industry has made it clearer than ever that these unsustainable and inhumane cages have no future in pork production, and we encourage pork producers to make the transition to group housing systems as quickly as possible.”
Similar announcements made recently by Tim Hortons, McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Oscar Mayer and more than 50 other leading food companies signal a reversal in a three-decade-old trend in the pork industry that leaves most breeding pigs confined day and night in gestation crates during their four-month pregnancy. These cages are roughly the same size as the animals’ bodies and designed to 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. This confinement system has come under fire from veterinarians, farmers, animal welfare advocates, animal scientists, consumers and others.
- More than one million breeding sows are kept on Canadian farms, the majority of them confined in cages know 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, Olymel and Maple Leaf Foods have pledged to end the use of gestation crates at their company-owned facilities. Meanwhile, many family farmers have been raising pigs without the use of gestation crates for generations.
Media Contact: Dean Pogas, HSI Canada: 514-395-2914
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 ten million members and constituents globally—on the Web at hsicanada.ca.