Eight Canadian grocery stores to phase out sow stalls by 2022
The Retail Council of Canada (RCC) announced on April 29th that eight major Canadian grocers will phase out sow stalls from their supply chains by 2022. They are Co-op Atlantic, Canada Safeway, Costco Wholesale Canada, Federated Co-operatives Limited , Loblaw Companies Limited, Metro Inc., Sobeys Inc., and Walmart Canada Corp.
As the RCC states on its website: “Over a number of decades, most sow housing in Canada has converted to more intensive, non-bedded, indoor systems. While these stalls have allowed for easier management of sows through more consistent feeding and less injuries from aggression, the restriction in movement has led to concerns that this system inhibits natural behaviours.”
The Council adds that “We are working closely with the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) and the Canadian Pork Council…to update the Pig Code of Practice, to be released for public comment on June 1, 2013.”
The Canadian Pork Council (CPC) has responded to the RCC announcement with a statement on the CPC website that states: “The CPC looks forward to meeting with RCC to hear its proposals on how changes to sow housing can be managed and how the value chain and others can share in the investment.”
CCFA applauds the commitment by Canada’s grocers to improve the lives of mother pigs — most of whom now spend virtually their entire lives confined in 2’ x 7’ stalls.
CCFA has worked directly with Loblaw for several years to encourage change for crated sows and caged hens in Canada. We have spoken at the Loblaw annual shareholders’ meeting, and encouraged the company’s participation in the National Farm Animal Care Council – Loblaw was the first retailer to join.
To read Loblaw’s targets around animal welfare, scroll down to “Animal Welfare” in its corporate social responsibility (CSR) report here.
To read the full sow-stall announcement from the Retail Council of Canada, click here.
Science report for Pig Code now online for public review
In preparation for the June 1st release of the updated Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs, the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) has published the supporting Review of Scientific Research on Priority Issues for pigs. The Review is important (in some ways more important than the Code itself) because it is intended as an unbiased document. As such, it informs development of the Code through factual scientific research in key areas of pig welfare.
These areas include…
Castration Male pigs are castrated to prevent “boar taint”, which is an odour/flavour that can make pig meat unmarketable. Castration is usually done on farms without anesthetic or veterinary supervision, making it a serious welfare concern. The Review looks at various types of pain control and compares their effectiveness, safety, practicality, and impact on productivity. It also looks at alternatives to castration such as immuno-castration, which uses a vaccine to immunize pigs against the hormones that cause boar taint. A number of European countries including the United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain and Portugal do not generally castrate pigs. Boar taint in fact is present in only about 3% of uncastrated male pigs, and even less so when they are slaughtered at a young age (pigs in Canada to go market at 6 months). Moreover, there is now a method to detect boar taint at slaughter time; this method is now used in Europe, and eliminates the need for castration.
Euthanasia The Review examines various methods of on-farm euthanasia and market slaughter. Slaughterhouses typically use electrocution, captive bolt pistol, or gassing with carbon dioxide (CO2). While CO2 is sometimes touted by the meat industry as the most humane method of slaughter, research shows that “Pigs at all ages appear to find inhalation of this gas highly aversive: escape and retreat attempts, gasping, head shaking and vocalizations occur frequently prior to loss of consciousness.” On-farm euthanasia usually involves a gunshot, captive bolt pistol or, for piglets, blunt force trauma. The Review maintains that blunt force trauma, also referred to as PACing (Pound Against Concrete), is humane when done properly and when reserved for piglets younger than 3 weeks. The Review acknowledges that “this method may be objectionable to the public and emotionally difficult for the stockperson.” Anesthetic overdose is also looked at; however, the research concludes that, as a controlled substance that requires veterinary supervision, it is costly, time-consuming and impractical overall.
Living space This section of the Review explains the “allometric formula” used to calculate the basic spatial requirements of pigs. The formula relates animal weight to body surface area, taking into account factors such as temperature, flooring and group-size. Based on this formula, two tables (on pages 40 and 41) list the actual floor-surface requirements per pig based on body weight. These are essentially minimum requirements for maintaining basic health and productivity and minimizing aggression.
Sow housing This section addresses key welfare issues such as gestation stalls and the use of deep straw bedding. The Review notes that, “It is possible to achieve equal or better productivity and health in group-housing systems compared to individual gestation stalls”, and “sows housed in stalls show an increased performance of stereotypic behaviour”. "Stereotypies" are the repetitive, neurotic bar-biting, sham-chewing and head-shaking by sows in stalls, and are attributed to the stress and boredom of confinement. The Review also notes one researcher who “suggested that in conventional stalls with a 58cm (23in) width, less than 40% of sows are able lie laterally without protruding in neighbours’ stalls given that the maximum depth of sows can reach 78cm (31in) at the end of gestation.” Regarding deep straw, the Review concludes: “Straw bedding improves lying comfort, improves gait, decreases the occurrence of stereotypic behaviour but has no impact on aggressive behaviour.”
Managing sow aggression Among the key conclusions in this section: aggression among unfamiliar (i.e. newly introduced/mixed) sows tends to be short-term, and sows who have been mixed several times with new groups become less aggressive over time. In addition, the use of physical barriers in barns such as half-walls gives the sows an effective means of averting confrontation.
It should be noted that two issues not addressed in the Review are teeth-clipping and tail docking — both usually performed without pain relief. These are welfare concerns that CCFA believes should be addressed by the NFACC.
Please take some time to go through the Review of Scientific Research on Priority Issues for pigs. It is a great opportunity to familiarize yourself with the science behind pig behaviour and welfare, and will help inform your review of the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs. The Review can be accessed at: www.nfacc.ca.
Ban Sow Stalls: campaign update
CCFA remains committed to advocating for sows forced to live mercilessly confined in stalls, and we believe that mounting consumer and industry pressure to ban them is having a positive impact. The Retail Council of Canada's announcement this week that eight Canadian grocery stores will phase out stalls by 2022 follows close on the heels of other similar announcements by large companies like Tim Hortons (phasing out stalls by 2022) and Olymel (by 2024). In addition, the Calgary Co-op, western Canada's largest grocery co-operative, announced in March that it would phase caged pork from its supply chain over the next five years.
In the meantime, we continue to educate the public about the cruelty of stalls through our 30-second television commercial
, now running again nationally on CBC Newsworld and the CTV News Channel. Please spread the word to family and friends and encourage them to take action on behalf of mother pigs.
We are also pleased to see that, as noted in the first article, industry groups such as the Canadian Pork Council are taking steps to work with organizations such as the RCC in an effort to find an alternative to sow stalls. In the meantime, we encourage you to continue your support for sow-stall bans. With that in mind, please write to your Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) and ask for legislation that makes phasing out sow stalls not just voluntary but mandatory by law. To get the name and contact details of your MPP, click here.
Sweda Farms: Model free-range egg farm & advocate for truth in egg labelling
When students at Ontario’s University of Guelph study egg farming, their research may include a stay at Sweda Farms. Located in Blackstock, Ontario, just east of Toronto, the farm is home to a research facility that has developed a free-range system for 260-something hens who, in addition to enjoying a warm indoor nesting and roosting barn, have true outdoor access 365 days a year. Many egg farms make this claim; not all deliver on it.
“The hens really enjoy the outdoors and go outside even when there’s snow on the ground,” says Svante Lind, who runs Sweda Farms Research Facility with wife Marianne and assistant Stuart Jackson.
During the cold months, the hens venture out into the protected “winter garden”. In the summer, they strut around green pasture, something that the majority of Canada’s 27 million egg-laying hens never come close to experiencing — including some from so-called “free range” farms.
Sweda Farms has received commendations from not only the Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals but also the World Society for the Protection of Animals. Operating in conjunction with the University of Guelph, the farm hosts students who stay for several days to study hen health, welfare and productivity.
The farm operates by the motto: “In the spirit of Astrid Lindgren’s work for Humane Care of Laying Hens”.
Lindgren, one of Sweden’s most popular authors — she wrote Pippi Longstocking —
was also a vocal advocate for farm animals, and helped persuade the Swedish government to take a leading role in the adoption of more humane laws for, among others, egg-laying hens.
Some CCFA directors recently toured the farm, and after Director Stephanie Brown made a new friend, Marianne led the hens in a serenade to lone rooster Freddy. Click here to play the video
– and be sure to have the volume up!
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
Sweda Farms has called for legislation in Ontario to protect consumers from false or misleading information in the marketing of free-range eggs. Please take a moment to send an email
to Ontario Minister of Agriculture (and Premier of Ontario) Kathleen Wynne to make it clear that you want Ontario’s egg marketing to be more truthful, consistent and accountable — both for consumers and for the welfare of egg-laying hens.
Meet our Members:
Beth Shepherd is a long-time opponent of factory farming, and uses her art to support her advocacy. The Ottawa native is an award-winning painter and printmaker whose work appears in galleries around the Ottawa region. She has a website, bethshepherd.ca
, and a blog
. One of her recurring messages is consumer power. She says on her website that "Consumers have the power to end factory farming," and notes that we vote three times a day through the meals we purchase and eat. Pigs figure prominently in her art. "Why have I put pigs in my art?" she asks. "It is a way to start conversations about the choices we make."
Tell us how you like to help farm animals. Share your experience on News in a Flash
by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
. Don't forget to send your picture!