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Rhode Island Enacts Legislation to Prohibit Extreme Confinement Crates for Pigs and Calves and the Routine Docking of Cows’ Tails

The HSUS applauds lawmakers for making Rhode Island the ninth state to pass farm animal protection legislation

The Humane Society of the United States applauds Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee and state lawmakers for enacting S.2191/H.7180, legislation that prohibits the extreme confinement of breeding pigs and veal calves in small crates, and S.2192, legislation that prohibits the unnecessary and inhumane practice of cattle tail docking. Tail docking involves the partial amputation—typically without pain killers—of up to two-thirds of a cow’s tail.

The bills, introduced by Senate Majority Leader Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) and Rep. Patricia Serpa (D – Dist. 27, Coventry, Warwick, West Warwick), passed the Senate and House with overwhelming support and the governor has signed them into law. This makes Rhode Island the ninth state to ban gestation crates for breeding pigs, the seventh to ban veal crates for calves, and the third to ban cattle tail docking.

“Rhode Island is sending the message loud and clear that inhumane factory farming practices simply aren’t sustainable and should be banned,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. “The Humane Society of the United States is grateful to Senator Ruggerio and Representative Serpa for their leadership on these important animal protection policies and to Governor Chafee for signing this collection of farm animal welfare bills.”

“Rhode Island’s decision is further evidence that these cruel systems have no future. Cramming animals into crates so small that they can’t even turn around is horribly abusive,” said Bruce Friedrich, senior director for strategic initiatives at Farm Sanctuary. "These systems have no place in a just society."

In the pork industry, the vast majority of mother pigs are confined day and night during their four-month pregnancy in gestation crates, cages roughly the same size as the animals’ bodies. They are then placed into another crate to give birth, are 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.

Many calves raised for veal suffer nearly their entire lives inside individual crates. Like gestation crates, veal crates are so small the animals are unable to even turn around. These calves are often tethered by their necks for most of their four- to five-month lives.

“Gestation crates and veal crates are unnecessarily cruel and have no place in the Ocean State,” said Rep. Serpa. “It's inhumane and inconsistent with how Rhode islanders feel about animals.”

“Cruelties such as locking animals in tiny cages for their whole lives and cutting their tails off without painkiller aren’t acceptable to Rhode Islanders, and we’re proud to have taken action to prevent them,” said Majority Leader Ruggerio.

Scientific studies show that tail docking causes distress, pain and increased fly attacks, and that it offers no benefit to the animal. The American Veterinary Medical Association and numerous dairy industry representatives oppose routine tail docking of dairy cows and major dairy states like Ohio and California have taken regulatory action against the practice.


  • Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Ohio and Oregon have all passed laws to phase out gestation crates. In addition to Rhode Island, bills on this issue are currently pending in Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey.
  • Since February, McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Cracker Barrel, Denny’s and Sonic have announced that they will eliminate gestation crates from their supply chains, as have Kroger and Safeway, the nation’s top two supermarket chains, and Compass Group, the world’s largest foodservice company.
  • Renowned animal welfare scientist and advisor to the pork industry, Temple Grandin, Ph.D., is clear on this issue, stating: “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.”
  • The American Veterinary Medical Association, Canadian Veterinary Medical Association and many industry representatives oppose the routine tail docking of dairy cows. The AVMA explains: “Current scientific literature indicates that routine tail docking provides no benefit to the animal, and that tail docking can lead to distress during fly seasons.” The CVMA states that “it has been shown that cows are unable to effectively keep flies away once the tail is docked.”


Media Contacts:

Anna West, awest@humanesociety.org, 301-258-1518

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