Ban Gestation Crates

It's time to end cruel confinement for Canada’s breeding pigs

Humane Society International

  • Cruel confinement. The HSUS

Pigs are extremely smart, social animals capable of feeling fear, pain, and stress. Studies show that they are more intelligent than dogs and even some primates, and scientists have demonstrated that pigs are capable of playing simple video games, learning from each other, and even learning names.

Most breeding sows in Canada are confined in “gestation crates” for virtually their entire lives. These crates are about the same width and length of a pig’s body, preventing the animals from even turning around. This is one of the cruelest practices in all of agribusiness. Read more about gestation crates in Canada.

Support a phase-out

Over the last several years, consumers, companies and governments around the world have been making the move towards alternatives for gestation crates. Right now, the Canadian industry is considering making a similar move away from these housing systems. Reforming this industry to conform to increasingly accepted global welfare standards will ensure continued market access for Canadian pork products, and will also bring producers in line with the expectations of retailers here in Canada, as well as those of the vast majority of the Canadian public, who support such a transition.

HSI/Canada is calling on the Canadian federal and provincial governments to work with all stakeholders to facilitate a phase-out of the use of gestation crates in favour of group housing for breeding sows. Making transition funds available through Growing Forward 2 to those producers who wish to make the transition to group sow housing now would be the most effective way the federal government could ensure the future growth of the Canadian pork industry, both domestically and internationally.

Cruel confinement

It’s simply wrong to confine farm animals in tiny cages for their whole lives. Pigs housed in gestation crates bite the metal bars of their crates out of their frustration and boredom, often until their gums bleed.

We wouldn’t force our pets to live in filthy, cramped cages for their whole lives, and we shouldn’t force farm animals to endure such misery, either. All animals, including those raised for food, deserve protection from this abuse.

The crate-free trend

Around the world, countries are phasing out the use of cruel gestation crates. In the European Union, a ban on the use of continuous use of crates came into effect on January 1st, 2013. In New Zealand and Australia, permanently housing sows in gestation crates will be phased out by 2015 and 2017, respectively. In the United States, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon and Rhode Island have all passed laws to phase out gestation crates, with other states considering similar plans.

In Canada, a 2013 Environics poll revealed that an overwhelming 84 percent of Canadians support a phase out of the use of gestation crates for breeding sows. HSI/Canada and our partner organizations are making great progress for these animals. A growing number of major companies are acknowledging that gestation crates are a cruel way to confine mother pigs, and are asking their suppliers to phase out their use.

Since 2012, some of the largest restaurants in the world announced plans to rid their supply chains of these cruel, confinement crates, including McDonalds, Burger King, Tim Hortons, and Wendy’s. In 2013, the Retail Council of Canada announced that eight of the largest Canadian supermarket chains, including Loblaw, Sobeys, Metro, Costco and Safeway, would move away from gestation crate confinement of pigs in their supply systems.

Now, we are asking Canada’s pork industry to move as one to phase out gestation crates completely.

You can personally say no to this cruelty by always purchasing crate-free pork and asking local restaurants not to use pork that comes from gestation crates.

The science is clear

The Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production—which was funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts and Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, and included the former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture—recommended that “all systems that restrict natural movement,” including gestation crates, be phased out.

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