Thanks to 37,000 Care2 members taking action, the more than one million pregnant pigs on Canadian farms will not have to spend their lives confined in a space so small they can’t even turn around. A Care2 petition demanded an urgent response to help mother pigs — and Canada’s National Farm Animal Care Council and the Canadian Pork Council have created new regulations that ban the continuous confinement of sows in newly built and rebuilt facilities.
A new Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs has just been released. Significantly, the new Code of Practice includes a long-overdue ban on continuously confining pregnant sows in gestation crates which, in an age of industrial-scale farming, have become a standard practice in North America. Facilities that are built or renovated after July 1, 2014 must now have group housing systems for pregnant sows, instead of keeping them in crates barely bigger than their own bodies.
Pig producers, animal welfare and enforcement representatives, researchers, transporters, processors, veterinarians and government representatives all worked in close consultation with a Scientific Committee (with specific expertise in pig behavior, health and welfare) to create Canada’s new regulations. In addition to calling for a ban on gestation crates, the new Code of Practice requires mandatory pain relief for pigs during castration and tail docking.
(Yes, it’s outrageous those weren’t already mandatory.)
There’s no question that pigs kept in gestation crates suffer horrifically in conditions that would be considered torture for human beings. The crates simply aren’t necessary to raise pigs. For generations, family farms have been raising these intelligent and social animals without crates.
Recognizing all this, nine U.S. states and the European Union have already passed legislation banning the continual confinement of breeding pigs. Major U.S. pork producers including Smithfield, Hormel, Tyson, Olymel and Maple Leaf Foods have been moving away from using gestation crates. The vast majority of Canadians (84 percent in a recent national poll) oppose the use of the crates.
We Can Still Do More to Improve the Lives of Pigs and Farm Animals
As Sayara Thurston, campaign manager with Humane Society International (HSI)/Canada, says, the new Code of Practice is a “monumental first step.” Nonetheless, she also makes it clear that much remains to be done to “improve the welfare of pigs raised on Canadian farms.” In particular, it must be emphasized that the new Code only applies to code applies to farms that will be built and rebuilt after July 1, 2014. Only a small number of stalls will actually be built under the guidelines laid out by the new Code. As Barbara Cartwright, CEO of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, observes, ”even higher standards” than those in the new Code of Practice are needed to ensure the welfare of pigs.
It’s a huge step forward that pregnant pigs on Canadian farms won’t have to spend their lives in cramped surroundings and you helped to make it happen. There are still many more ways that Canada’s pork industry could improve the lives of pigs – we need to keep up the pressure on Canada’s National Farm Animal Care Council and the Pork Council for the sake of all pigs.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons