Canada’s open housing push sparks worry in U.S.

Hog code of practice Activists will force U.S. to follow suit, says academic

Canada’s hog industry has made it harder for U.S. producers who still hope to maintain the right to use gestation crates, says an American hog health scientist and sow stall supporter.

“This has become a real issue be-cause the activists will use that stuff against them,” Janeen Salak-Johnson said about Canada’s new hog code of practice.

“And they will. They will come and say, ‘well, the Canadians did it so why can’t you guys do it?’ ”

Salak-Johnson, a stress physiology specialist with the University of Illinois’ animal sciences department, said large sections of the U.S. hog industry still believe gestation crates are the most humane system and feel the move into open housing is premature and unjustified.

She said she shares many of those concerns because she does not believe open housing systems are well-enough researched to guarantee better humane standards. Some could actually damage sow well-being.

Salak-Johnson offered a vociferous defence of gestation stalls during a speech at the Manitoba Pork Council annual meeting and denounced the efforts of activists to demonize hog farmers and the pork industry.


She also challenged the notion that “the train has left the station” on the gestation stall issue and questioned whether the U.S. restaurant and grocery chains that have committed to offering crate-free pork will actually be able to do so.

However, she is also researching open housing systems and how they affect overall sow health and well-being so that producers can make informed choices when considering whether to switch.

It’s why she is worried about how Canada’s embrace of phasing out gestation crates will affect the U.S. industry. Activists will try to divide and conquer by pointing to Canada as going in a supposedly better direction and therefore putting even more pressure on U.S. farmers to adopt the same approach.

Having two different situations right now does not take pressure off the industry, she said.

“We’ve got to become unified.”