A major retailer in the South African market has pledged to support the abolishment of gestation crates currently used for pregnant sows in much of the local pork farming industry.
A gestation crate is a metal crate usually with a bare floor, which is so narrow that the sow cannot turn around and can only stand up. Currently, pregnant sows are kept in gestation crates for most of her pregnancy, about 107 days.
The National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) made known its opposition to the practice of crating in 2006, during discussions with the South African Pork Producers’ Organisation (SAPPO), insisting the practise be phased out before 2011.
“Woolworths supports the NSPCA’s desire to see the use of sow stalls phased out by 2016. As a relatively minor player in the pork market, however, we cannot transform the supply chain alone,” says Zyda Ryalnds, managing director of food at Woolworths. “We will continue to work with the industry as well as our own suppliers to find sustainable ways of phasing out the practice.”
SAPPO and the NSPCA subsequently came to a deadlock during a meeting where the phase out date was discussed. SAPPO stated that they have committed to a phase out by 2020, but the NSPCA remained firm on the 2016 deadline.
Other large retailers also keen
“The deadline has already been extended from 2011 to 2016. We feel that industry does not require four more years to remove bars or provide an open pen system to provide sufficient space for a pregnant sow,” says Nazareth Appalsamy, National Inspector of the Farm Animal Protection Unit at the NSPCA. “We applaud Woolworths for their commitment to the welfare of animals, as well as their commitment to their consumers. We have also been in talks with other large retailers, who are also showing their support in meeting the 2016 deadline.”
“According to research conducted in 1994, group housing for dry sows is beneficial to their welfare as well as to the farmers’ bottom line,” said National Farm Animal Unit Manager, Andries Venter, referring to Animal Welfare 1994, 3:97-105.
The practice of using gestation crates has been shown to cause an elevated risk of urinary tract infections, weakened bones, overgrown hooves, and lameness of the sows. The restriction has also been shown to induce stereotypies; repetitive movements, such as rocking back and forth or swaying. Crated pigs are shown to exhibit chronic stress manifested by increased cortisol concentrations.
The crating of sows during pregnancy has already been banned in the UK, Sweden, Switzerland, and some US states. The phasing out period in the EU ended in 2012.
The NSPCAs Farm Animal Unit embarked on a public campaign in February 2013, where the practice was brought to the attention of the consumers, with several industry role players being bombarded by public emails.