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Sow gestation stalls restricted in new code

Controversial sow stalls are one step closer to being eliminated from Manitoba pig barns after the enactment of a new national code of practice for Canada's hog industry.

The revised Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs says while conventional stalls will be allowed, all new pig barns built after July 1 this year must also include open areas for sows, which permit much greater freedom of movement and are considered more humane.

Also, after July 1, 2024, conventional stalls will be permitted only if the sows are allowed out of the stalls periodically for exercise. Otherwise, they must be housed either in stalls that allow greater freedom of movement or in open areas with other sows.

A spokesman for the Manitoba Pork Council, the umbrella group for Manitoba hog producers, said Thursday sows are typically housed in stalls during the first 28 days of pregnancy to prevent damage to the fetus.

Mark Fynn, the council's animal protection specialist, said although these "gestation" stalls will still be allowed after 2024, he expects they will eventually be phased out entirely in Manitoba as local producers transition to new barns with open housing systems -- "we are fully committed to that." Animal-welfare proponents such as the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies have for years been pushing for a ban on sow stalls, saying they cause extreme stress and frustration in these intelligent, social animals.

It was the CFHS that spearheaded negotiations between animal-welfare, veterinary, hog-industry and government officials that led to the revision of the national code of practice.

CFHS chief executive Barbara Cartwright said the introduction of the revised code is "a watershed moment" in Canada.

"Negotiating significant advancements in animal welfare was an arduous process because the CFHS advocates for only those farming practices that provide good welfare for the animals," Cartwright said. "The elimination of sow stalls is chief amongst these."

The new sow-stall provisions were among a number of changes in the new code of practice. It also bans castrating piglets or removing their tails without any pain relief. That ban takes effective immediately in the case of piglets over 10 days old, and on July 1, 2016 for piglets of any age.

The code imposes an immediate ban on tethering pigs and requires producers to provide their pigs "with multiple forms of enrichment to enhance their physical and social environments."


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