It’s been a big week for pigs! Two major U.S. pork producers announced that they are taking steps to root out one of the cruelest factory farming practices: The use of gestation crates, devices that confine pregnant mother pigs for most of their lives in spaces so small they cannot turn around.
On Tuesday, Smithfield Foods announced it is recommending that all of its contract farmers convert from gestation crates to group housing systems for pregnant sows by 2022. The company offered the incentive of a contract extension to these growers upon completion of the conversion. Smithfield had already committed to phasing gestation crates out of 100% of its company-owned facilities by 2017.
Yesterday another major pork producer, Tyson Foods, sent a letter to its suppliers outlining the company’s new stance that mother pigs should be able to “stand, turn around, lie down and stretch their legs.” Since gestation crates prevent even that degree of movement, this means that future Tyson sow barns will hopefully feature alternative housing systems. The letter also encouraged an end to the practice of killing sick or injured piglets through blunt force trauma and urged the use of pain relief during castration and tail-docking, which factory farms currently perform without using anesthesia. Finally, it urged producers to install cameras in their facilities to improve accountability for the proper handling of animals.
Unfortunately, neither company is requiring these changes from its suppliers. Still, these are important steps in the right direction and send a strong message to consumers, pork producers and the public that immobilizing farm animals is not only inhumane, but also unnecessary. These important announcements leave no doubt that change is possible, and that’s something we can all celebrate!
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