Animal rights groups hail proposed pig code as victory

Both animal rights and animal welfare representatives greeted the proposed new pig code for Canada as a victory for the concerns they have highlighted and campaigned about.

But even if their main concerns are satisfied by the proposed changes, members of both wings of animal advocacy say they hope to bring further changes.

“We see the code of practice as a huge step forward,” said Sayara Thurston of Humane Society International/Canada (HSIC), an animal rights group that has run aggressive campaigns against gestation stalls.

Barbara Cartwright, chief executive officer of the Federation of Humane Societies of Canada (FHSC), also cheered the new code, which her organization helped to compose.

“It’s certainly a big step forward for pig welfare in Canada,” said Cartwright.

“We see it as a significant evolution in the right direction.”

Outright activists like the HSIC were not on the National Farm Animal Care Committee that wrote the proposed code.

However, there was representation from other animal welfare organizations.

The code process and development system was originally created after the nation’s humane societies and government agreed to create a voluntary system of industry, welfare organizations and others jointly developing husbandry codes that would protect the welfare of livestock on Canadian farms.

The code development system is done confidentially, so committee discussions are not made public. Cartwright would not say which issues in the code were most contentious.

But she said the greatest achievement for her organization might be the requirement for pain control to be provided for piglets undergoing castration or tail-docking.

And she said the code’s emphasis on both requirements as well as recommendations was something her organization wanted to see, as opposed to the present code’s emph-asis on recommendations with fewer requirements.

Cartwright and Thurston said they did not see the proposed code as an answer to all their concerns, nor an end to their advocacy for further restrictions on farmers in the future.

“We also see that we need to be 100 percent stall free,” said Cartwright about the allowance for post-insemination sow stalls for a 28-35 day period.

However, since this code addresses so much that FHSC raised, it supports the draft code and believes improvements can be made in the future.

Thurston said her organization will use the comment period to lobby for changes to the post-insemination stall allowance, including asking for individual pens to be large enough for sows to turn around in, and to not be kept in the pens so long.

“There’s no reason to keep them in there that long, or not to allow them to even turn them around,” said Thurston.

However, in general both organizations, representing the two main strands of animal advocacy, greeted the draft code as a victory.

Similar victories can be won in other livestock industries, who are also undergoing code updates, Cartwright said.

“We’re thrilled that not just the pig code, but all the other species that are farmed in Canada are also, their codes are under revision, because in the last 20 years we have made leaps and bounds in our understanding of animal welfare science,” said Cartwright.