Farrowing crates

Humane Society International / United Kingdom

Christopher Shoebridge/We Animals Media

Pigs are sensitive and highly intelligent animals, and they are suffering on British farms. Across the UK, around 200,000 mother pigs (sows) are kept in ‘farrowing crates’—cages barely bigger than they are for up to five weeks at a time, several times a year.

What are farrowing crates?

Shortly before she is due to give birth, a sow is typically moved to a farrowing crate, a small metal cage which severely restricts the sow’s movement and denies her strong natural instinct to build a nest before giving birth.

Sows suffer when they are forced to spend much of their lives behind bars and a typical sow spends almost a quarter (22%) of her adult breeding life in a farrowing crate only slightly larger than she is, preventing her from turning around or caring for her newborn piglets in the ways she naturally would. This is the devastating reality for around 60% of mother pigs in the UK. Investigations show that living in such cramped conditions can clearly cause mental distress for the sows, and physical wounds from repeated rubbing against the bars are common.

Farrowing crates are used by some farmers to reduce piglet mortality however in well-designed and well-managed free farrowing pens piglet mortality can be as low as, or even lower than, in farrowing crates.

What’s the alternative to using farrowing crates?

Several indoor free-farrowing systems that permit the sow to move freely, whilst still reducing the risk of piglet mortality, are commercially available and in use in a number of countries, including the UK. Free-farrowing systems designed and produced in Britain are being used in the UK, USA and Canada. Farrowing crates have already been banned or severely restricted in Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Austria and Germany, and the European Commission has pledged to end the use of cages and crates for farmed animals by 2027.

Banning farrowing crates

Humane Society International/UK has joined forces with Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation and Compassion in World Farming for ‘The Crate Escape’—our campaign calling on the UK Government to outlaw the use of pig farrowing crates. The Government committed to review the use of farrowing crates in 2021, and it’s time for them to follow through on this commitment, starting with a consultation. We need our politicians, as well as major retailers, to financially support pig farmers to transition away from using farrowing crates.

HSI/UK commissioned a poll that revealed that less than 1 in 5 surveyed people support the use of farrowing crates on British farms.

Take action to ban farrowing crates.

You can also help animals at every meal by taking them off your plate.

The Crate Escape: Urge your MP to help mother pigs

Christopher Shoebridge/We Animals Media

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