‘Quit stalling,’ group tells hog sector

The Humane Society International/Canada has urged the Canadian pork industry to “quit stalling” and keep to its original timeline of phasing out sow gestation crates and moving to open housing systems by 2024.

An update to the national code of practice for pigs is now underway and one proposal is to delay the transition to group housing systems to 2029 instead of the previous plan for phase out by 2024.

Comments on that proposal and several others were accepted from Sept. 21 to Nov. 19.

“We urge the pork industry to quit stalling and to adhere to its original timeline of phasing out gestation crates by 2024. This kind of delay, which will compromise the welfare of hundreds of thousands of animals, is a stark reminder of why the animal agriculture sector should not be allowed to self-regulate,” said Riana Topan, HIS/Canada’s campaign manager for farm animal welfare, in a Nov. 12 news release.

As part of the five-year update to the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs, a technical panel recommended 2029 as the new target date. It said the complexity of converting older barns, the cost, financing difficulties and concerns about productivity would prevent many hog farmers from meeting the 2024 deadline.

Every hog barn built since 2014 has incorporated loose housing and industry officials have said they are committed to continuing that. About 60 percent of Canadian hog operations are expected to have loose housing by 2024.

“During the code development process that led to the 2024 conversion date, the physical complexities of adapting various barn designs was severely underestimated,” the technical panel for the NFACC said in its report.

“Moreover, the importance of the quality of the space offered to animals might have been underestimated and the quantity of space overestimated. To date, there are still a lot of unknowns about the optimum way to convert to group housing.”

The panel also recommended that current code wording be amended to say that as of July 1, 2029, individual sow stalls may be used for up to 28 days after the date of last breeding.

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