Major retailers urged to help end use of gestation stalls

The new owner of a now infamous Interlake hog barn says it will be getting rid of all its gestation stalls within four years.

Video secretly shot in the Puratone weanling barn recently drew national coverage — and widespread condemnation — with its graphic scenes of castration and piglets being euthanized by slamming them onto concrete. But the video also showed agitated pigs with open sores in gestation stalls, which prompted renewed calls for a ban on the practice.

“The consuming public is finally getting much more aware that they can put pressure on the grocery chains to alter where they are buying their product from,” said Winnipeg Humane Society CEO Bill McDonald.

The society has been actively campaigning for a government ban on gestation stalls for a decade, but now appears more focused on pressuring grocery and restaurant chains to stop buying pork from companies that use gestation stalls.

“When you get the big players like McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, etcetera, starting to change the rules for the producer, man, watch out,” said McDonald.

The Manitoba Pork Council has set a deadline of 2025 for eliminating gestation stalls in the province, but Maple Leaf Foods isn’t waiting that long. The company recently bought Puratone, which had about 50 barns producing 500,000 pigs annually. All of them, including the Interlake barn, will be getting rid of their gestation crates by 2017, said Maple Leaf spokesman Dave Bauer.

“We are fully committed to meeting the deadline,” said Bauer. “We’re starting to phase (open housing) in, in 2013, with a plan in place to have all our barns converted by 2017.”

The Manitoba Pork Council has asked the province’s chief veterinary officer to review the video and the Canadian Pork Council has asked an independent third-party expert panel to review the video and provide comments.

But there’s been no mention of moving up the 2025 phase-out deadline.

“Our goal is to deliver the best animal welfare possible and we will continue to explore ways to improve, but we need to make sure the changes we make are a step forward in the care of our animals, and not a step backwards,” council chair and Baldur hog farmer Karl Kynoch said in a statement earlier this month.

About the author

Reporter

Shannon VanRaes is a journalist and photojournalist at the Manitoba Co-operator. She also writes a weekly urban affairs column for Metro Winnipeg, and has previously reported for the Winnipeg Sun, Outwords Magazine and the Portage Daily Graphic.

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