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June 1, 2013

Canada Set to Ban Lifelong Confinement of Pigs in Immobilizing Cages

Progress draws into question U.S. pork industry’s animal welfare policies

Canadian pigs would no longer be confined perpetually in gestation crates during pregnancy under a proposal released for public comment by Canada’s National Farm Animal Care Council. The plan earned applause from The Humane Society of the United States.

The draft proposes eliminating the confinement of breeding pigs in gestation crates — cages roughly the same size as the animals’ bodies designed to prevent them from even turning around.

“While Canada, the European Union, virtually every major global food retailer and many of the largest pork producers are taking steps to ensure that gestation crates are relegated to the dustbin of history, some U.S. pork industry leaders inexplicably continue to defend this cruel confinement,” said Paul Shapiro, vice president of farm animal protection for The HSUS. “We hope The National Pork Board and National Pork Producers Council will shift gears by helping their industry make the transition to higher animal welfare systems that allow pigs to move.”

Gestation crates, currently standard in pork production, have come under fire from veterinarians, family farmers, animal welfare advocates, legislators, scientists, consumers and food retailers. A recent national poll in Canada showed that 84 percent of Canadians support a complete phase out of the gestation crate confinement system. The poll was conducted by Environics Research Group between May 9 and May 18.

Canada’s move follows a European Union ban on continuous gestation crate confinement that went into effect in January 2013, legislation banning gestation crates in nine U.S. states, and public commitments from more than 50 of North America’s largest pork buyers and producers—McDonald’s, Burger King, Costco, Oscar Mayer, Kroger, Smithfield Foods, Hormel Foods and dozens more—to eliminate gestation crates from their supply chains and operations.

The new draft of the Code of Practice will be up for confirmation by the council in 60 days. As the code is currently written, the construction of new gestation crate operations throughout Canada would be prohibited beginning in 2014, and producers would have to replace existing gestation crates with group housing by 2024.

Media Contact:

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

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