The Retail Council of Canada announced that all eight of the largest Canadian supermarket chains—Walmart Canada, Costco Canada, Metro, Loblaw, Safeway Canada, Federated Co-operatives, Sobeys and Co-op Atlantic—will move away from gestation crate confinement of pigs in their supply systems over the next nine years. Humane Society International/Canada and The Humane Society of the United States applauded the landmark announcement.
Gestation crates are cages used to tightly confine breeding pigs to the point where the animals can’t even turn around for nearly their entire lives. The announcement comes at a time when the National Farm Animal Care Council—a governmental funded organization—is reviewing and revising its Codes of Practice and considering a nationwide phase-out of gestation crates.
In a press release, the Retail Council of Canada stated: “Increasingly, stakeholder expectations have…been changing and industry is being encouraged to shift towards alternative [gestation crate-free] housing practices. The Retail Council of Canada believes that sows should be housed in an environment where their pregnancy, health and well-being are taken into highest consideration.”
Sayara Thurston, campaigner with Humane Society International/Canada, said: “We applaud the Retail Council of Canada and its members for taking seriously one of the most critical animal welfare issues in food production today. The Canadian food industry has made it clearer than ever that these unsustainable and inhumane cages have no future in pork production, and we encourage pork producers to make the transition to group housing systems as quickly as possible.”
Similar announcements made recently by Tim Hortons, McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Oscar Mayer and more than 50 other leading food companies signal a reversal in a three-decade-old trend in the pork industry that leaves most breeding pigs confined day and night in gestation crates during their four-month pregnancy. These cages are roughly the same size as the animals’ bodies and designed to prevent them from even turning around. The animals are subsequently transferred into another crate to give birth, re-impregnated, and put back into a gestation crate. This happens pregnancy after pregnancy for their entire lives, adding up to years of virtual immobilization. This confinement system has come under fire from veterinarians, farmers, animal welfare advocates, animal scientists, consumers and others.