Women at risk due to personal health issues or of potentially losing a child are often confined to bed rest for months during their pregnancy. Wouldn’t protecting the life of a baby pig by keeping sows in a confined area during gestation be a fair analogy?
Why has it been ignored that the pork industry has had veterinarian oversight for years, and these animal welfare experts have helped producers develop and incorporate best management practices?
Rather than a debate between gestation stalls and open pens, why haven’t the activists pushed for having all animals outside, in their natural habitat?
In reality, does this issue have anything to do with housing, or is it simply another way of encouraging consumers to eat less meat, which remains the ultimate goal of many activist groups?
What is the industry’s best step going forward?
click image to zoom The swine housing issue is as simple as it is complex. From the standpoint of the research, it’s simple. Producers and industry professionals alike know gestation stalls are a viable option based on sound science. Yet from a “politically correct” position based on a combination of factors, some producers have either incorporated alternative housing systems or are considering doing so.
Through email correspondence with a representative of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), a request was made for research to back up the organization’s claim that gestation stalls were inhumane. In response, an article on the HSUS website was sent. This 211-page document, called “The Welfare of Intensely Kept Pigs – Report of the Scientific Veterinary Committee Expert Working Group,” was adopted in the European Union in September, 1997.
Pick and Choose
Few people are likely to read the full report, however if they did, they would be surprised. HSUS selectively chose to support the one or two instances in which suggestions were made to eventually move away from gestation stalls. However, for the most part, the report is fair, balanced and thorough.
Of the 94 conclusions and recommendations, the overriding theme is the importance of quality stockmanship. Pros and cons of multiple systems are illuminated, and recommendations of one system over another are minimal.
Take a look:
The person responsible for the pigs should ensure that their welfare, including their health, is safeguarded by the use of appropriate housing, feeding, care, vaccination, preventive medicine and veterinary advice and treatment. Pigs should be inspected daily by the caretaker for signs of poor welfare…
Conclusions about welfare should always be based on all available evidence, properly weighted, and should not rely only on, for example, preference or other trials in experimental conditions, or epidemiological surveys. When recommendations about modified practices are produced, the relevance of experimental studies where effects of only one or a few factors have been varied, must be carefully considered. On practically operating farms, effects of such single variables may be exaggerated or compensated by other factors, and the stockman factor is central in the effective functioning of a particular system. It is therefore normally desirable that on-farm surveys are carried out before definite recommendations are issued.