The National Farm Animal Care Council in Canada has released a proposal for public comment that would ban confinement of pregnant sows in stalls, which are a type of confinement housing for individual sows that provide only enough space for the animal to lie down and stand up, with no room to turn or walk around.
The proposal drew immediate response from The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which called on the National Pork Board and National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) to end its opposition to any ban on stalls and shift to support of alternative housing such as group pens.
HSUS said a national poll in Canada, conducted in early May, shows that 84% of Canadians support a complete phase out of gestation stalls.
The proposal suggests that no new construction of gestation-stall housing would be permitted beginning next year and that all production would need to be transitioned to alternative housing by 2024. The animal care council is scheduled to review comment and issue a final rule in 60 days.
NPPC has noted that there are animal care and welfare advantages and disadvantages to both gestation stalls and group pens, citing scientific and veterinarian conclusions, and has said decisions on sow housing should be left to individual producers.
The June 3 issue of Feedstuffs includes an exclusive interview with officials at Murphy-Brown LLC about why and how the company is transitioning to group pens for pregnant sows and about what the company has learned to date where transitions have been completed. Murphy-Brown is the live animal production unit of Smithfield Foods Inc., the largest hog producer and pork processor in the world.
The issue also includes data from interviews that show that foodservice and retail companies and dietitians, when asked unprompted questions, are more concerned about the healthfulness and safety of pork than hog production practices.