Manitoba Pork’s recent pledge to phase out sow stalls over the next 14 years is too little and too late, according to animal rights activists.
“The 2025 target date is 14 years in the future,” said Lynn Kavanagh, a director with Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals. “Besides, it’s only a recommendation – not a directive. Meanwhile, New Zealand and Australia are abolishing sow stalls completely within a mere four to six years.”
That group, along with the Canadians for Ethical Treatment of Food Animals (CETFA) , has focused on Manitoba because it has roughly one-quarter of the country’s breeding sows – 318,000 out of a national herd of more than 1.3 million female breeding pigs.
The centrepiece of their campaign is a website, www.helpthepigs.ca, featur ing “never-before-seen footage of sows on a Canadian farm crammed into tiny, dismal crates,” according to a press release from the two groups.
“Scientific evidence increasingly shows sows suffer severely when confined to gestation crates,” said Twyla Francois, a CETFA representative who has the title “head of investigation.”
“In one barn visited by CETFA investigators, sows were so restricted by metal bars that merely shifting position was rendered nearly impossible.”
The website features a video, some of which appears to have been shot at night with a night-vision camera or using flashlights for illumination, of sows in narrow gestation crates.
“At the very least, sows deserve to be housed in groups on straw, where the animals can root around and socialize with each other, the way pigs are meant to do,” said Francois.
The two groups said several countries and U.S. states have either banned sow stalls or will phase them out in the next decade. They say they want the Manitoba pork industry to take “a real stand” by imposing a mandatory end to gestation stalls by 2017.
Manitoba Pork announced the 2025 phase-out in March. At the time, it noted hog barns usually have a life expectancy of 25 or more years and suggested their declaration effectively meant all future hog barns would be built on an open-housing concept. However, Manitoba Pork chair Karl Kynoch said group housing still requires further research and testing.