Canadian Retailers to Ban Sow Gestation Crates

Sow gestation crates are one of the cruelest components of intensive animal farming. An increasing number of retailers are dropping suppliers who use them. The latest announcement related to the topic was made by the Retail Council of Canada, who said that eight of the largest Canadian supermarket chains, including Walmart Canada, Costco Canada, Metro, Loblaw, Safeway Canada, Federated Co-operatives, Sobeys and Co-op Atlantic, will move away from this method of confinement in their supply systems over the next nine years. Humane Society International/Canada and The Humane Society of the United States welcomed the announcement.

More than one million breeding sows are kept on Canadian farms, the majority of them confined in cages known as gestation crates. These are cages used to tightly confine breeding pigs to the point where the animals can’t even turn around for nearly their entire lives. The animals are subsequently transferred into another crate to give birth, 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. This confinement system has come under fire from veterinarians, farmers, animal welfare advocates, animal scientists, consumers and others.

The announcement comes at a time when the National Farm Animal Care Council, a governmental funded organization, is reviewing and revising its Codes of Practice and considering a nationwide phase-out of gestation crates.

“Increasingly, stakeholder expectations have been changing and industry is being encouraged to shift towards alternative housing practices. The Retail Council of Canada believes that sows should be housed in an environment where their pregnancy, health and well-being are taken into highest consideration,” the Retail Council of Canada said in a press release.

Similar announcements were made recently by other food companies, signaling a reversal in a three-decade-old trend in the pork industry that leaves most breeding pigs confined day and night in gestation crates during their four-month pregnancy.

Image credit: Humane Society International/Canada