MONTREAL—Humane Society International/Canada, a leading national advocacy group for animal welfare, is deeply concerned about the pork industry’s delay in phasing out gestation crates, which are used to confine mother pigs for nearly their entire lives. These crates, also known as sow stalls, are commonplace in Canada’s pork industry and are so small that the animals cannot even turn around.
Riana Topan, HSI/Canada’s campaign manager for farm animal welfare, says: “Pigs are intelligent, social creatures and they should be given the opportunity to move around freely, to socialize, explore and play. We urge the pork industry to quit stalling and to adhere to its original timeline of phasing out gestation crates by 2024. This kind of delay, which will compromise the welfare of hundreds of thousands of animals, is a stark reminder of why the animal agriculture sector should not be allowed to self-regulate.”
The Canadian pork industry committed to a transition away from sow stalls in 2014, after immense public pressure from Canadian consumers who are increasingly concerned about animal welfare. Over 32,000 Canadians participated in an industry driven and government sanctioned Code of Practice development process in 2013, through which stalls were scheduled to largely be replaced with group housing systems by 2024, with gestation stalls permitted for up to 35 days of pregnancy. HSI/Canada hailed the move as an historic achievement for farm animal welfare in North America at the time. Unfortunately, the pork industry is stalling and now says the transition cannot be completed until 2029.
Within Canada, the federal government only regulates animal transport and slaughter. There are few laws to ensure humane animal treatment on farms. Instead, there are industry-specific Codes of Practice, which are created by the industry-dominated National Farm Animal Care Council and enforced by the industries to which they pertain. These Codes of Practice are not legally binding.
NFACC develops and reviews these Codes regularly and the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs is currently being revised, with comments being accepted until Nov. 19, 2020. The most contentious proposed change extends the timeline to phase out gestation crates from 2024 to 2029. The original agreement was to switch to group housing systems, which are better for animal welfare, five years earlier than the proposal currently under consideration.
HSI/Canada is calling on the Canadian pork industry to follow through on the commitment it agreed to in 2014. HSI/Canada further calls on the federal government to better regulate the pork industry and to divert any existing industry subsidies towards eliminating gestation crates. We also urge food companies—including Canada’s grocery industry—to uphold their existing commitment to have crate-free supply chains by 2022.
- The federal government does not regulate the treatment of animals on farms. Most provinces have animal cruelty legislation, but they typically contain exemptions for “generally accepted” agricultural practices. This lack of animal welfare laws and the Code of Practice system allow the industry to self-regulate, perpetuating cruel practices.
- The NFACC Codes of Practice are developed largely by the industry they pertain to and are not enforced with third-party oversight.
- Pigs routinely suffer in the pork industry: they often live in bare physical and social environments and are forced to undergo mutilative practices like tail docking, teeth clipping and castration without adequate pain relief. Piglets can be “euthanized” using blunt force trauma, where their heads are hit against a flat, hard surface or they are hit with “a sharp, firm blow with a heavy blunt instrument to the top of the head over the brain.”
- A national poll conducted by Environics Research Group in 2013 revealed that an overwhelming 84% of Canadians support a phase out of the use of gestation crates for breeding sows.
Media contact: Riana Topan, HSI/Canada, campaign manager: 613-315-0775, firstname.lastname@example.org.