Sow stalls – a mother’s dismal hell:
Farm animal welfare groups call for an end to sow stalls in Manitoba

For immediate release: May 5, 2011

Canadians for Ethical Treatment of Food Animals (CETFA) and the Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals (CCFA) are asking Manitoba’s pork industry to voluntarily phase out sow stalls by 2017.

Mother’s Day is an opportune time to highlight the plight of more than 1.3 million female breeding pigs in Canada, with approximately 318,000 in Manitoba alone. The vast majority of mother pigs are closely confined in sow stalls. Sow stalls (or gestation crates) enclose female pigs in metal-barred, concrete-floored pens for most of their adult lives--a space so small the animals can’t even turn around.

“Scientific evidence increasingly shows sows suffer severely when confined to gestation crates,” reports Twyla Francois, Head of Investigation with CETFA. “In one barn visited by CETFA investigators, sows were so restricted by metal bars that merely shifting position was rendered nearly impossible.”

Manitoba Pork’s own recently released report, Embracing a Sustainable Future, encourages its producers to stop using sows stalls by 2025. “The 2025 target date is 14 years in the future,” says Lynn Kavanagh, a Director with CCFA. “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.”

CETFA and CCFA propose that Manitoba’s pork industry -- Canada’s largest pig producer – should phase out stalls within six years, by 2017. “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”, says Francois.

To spread this message, CETFA and CCFA have launched a new website, featuring never-before-seen footage of sows on a Canadian farm crammed into tiny, dismal crates. As well, the groups have jointly produced a 30-second commercial, “Ban Sow Stalls.” The ad will start airing in Manitoba on Mother’s Day weekend. “We timed the launch of the campaign to coincide with Mother’s Day”, explains Kavanagh. “As mothers, female pigs are exploited for breeding to begin with. Plus, sow stalls, where they spend their entire breeding lives, don’t allow them to root around naturally and build a nest of straw for their oncoming piglets.”

A number of other countries such as the United Kingdom, Sweden and The Netherlands have already banned sow stalls. Seven U.S. states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan and Oregon, are also phasing out or have banned sow stalls. Most phase-outs occur within 10 years or less. Just last November, the Australian pork industry made a voluntary commitment to do away with sow stalls by 2017, and the New Zealand government announced plans to eliminate sow stalls by 2015. Meanwhile, a ban on sow stalls across the entire European Union is coming in 2013--less than two years from now.

“Why hasn’t the Manitoba pork industry taken a real stand against sow stalls?” CETFA’s Twyla Francois asks. “Through our campaign, that’s the question we’re bringing to the general public.”

Further information:

Twyla Francois, Canadians for Ethical Treatment of Food Animals, 204.296.1375

Lynn Kavanagh, Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals, 416.466.5328