Maple Leaf Foods, Canada's largest pork producer and processor, has announced that it will phase out gestation-sow crates within the next ten years. This action will affect about 116,000 animals and follows Smithfield Foods announcement last week. Smithfield, the world's largest pork producer announced it will move to group housing for gestation sows, also within a 10-year timeline. Smithfield has 187 hog breeding operations, involving 1.2 million breeding animals.
Humane Society International and The Humane Society of the United States applauded Maple Leaf's decision, declaring that an "animal-welfare revolution is taking place in the North American pork industry."
Maple Leaf officials did not release the details, only that they will phase out the use of gestation crates and convert to group housing systems where gestating animals will have some freedom of movement and the ability to socialize.
“With the largest pig producers in the United States and Canada eliminating gestation crates, the writing on the wall is clear for the North American pork industry,” says Rebecca Aldworth, director of Humane Society International, Canada. “There is no room in the future of agribusiness for gestation crates, which are one of the most inhumane confinement systems used in modern factory farms. The Humane Society urges other pig producers to follow the lead of Maple Leaf and Smithfield, and end the use of these cruel crates.”
HSUS is taking credit for the producers' decisions and pointing to voters' actions in Arizona (in 2006) and Florida (in 2002), which approved measures to outlaw gestation-sow crates in the states. The most recent one being Arizona's Proposition 204, approved this past November.
The European Union is committed to phasing out gestation-sow crates, with a total ban by 2013.
HSUS officials says they are considering replicating the Florida and Arizona gestation-sow crate efforts in other U.S. states during the 2008 elections. HSUS is the nation's largest animal rights' group, with nearly 10 million members.