Sow stalls (or gestation crates) confine female pigs for their adult lives in a space so small they cannot turn around. Following two or three years of intensive confinement, sows are trucked to slaughter.
Sows must live in a space barely larger than their bodies. The stall limits their movement to a couple of steps forward or back. Sows are selectively bred to produce ever larger litters and as a result, many sows no longer fit this tiny space (2′ x 7′).
Sows must live on hard, cold concrete flooring. They are not provided nesting or rooting material, or other bedding. Over time, the hard surface and metal bars cause painful abrasions and sores from lying on the hard, damp surface. Lack of exercise often results in muscle atrophy, arthritis and lameness. Many sows cannot walk when they are removed for slaughter.
Concrete floors are slatted for the sow’s urine and feces to drop into a pit below. Many sows develop respiratory ailments from living above the toxic waste. Pneumonia is not uncommon.
More than 1.1 million sows are kept in Canada, with about 318,000 in Manitoba, 341,900 in Ontario and 319,000 in Quebec. The vast majority are intensively confined in sow stalls.
For more information, read CETFA’s scientific advisor Op Eds Canadian Pig Industry: The Need for Change and Codes of practice fail to protect Canada’s animals from abuse and suffering.
CETFA has extensively documented the conditions of sows in gestation crates in Canada. See for example The impact of sow stalls on sows’ health and welfare, Sow stalls: a mother’s worst nightmare, and The secret lives of sows.
CETFA has also held meetings with – and/or given presentations to – government and industry representatives, co-created a TV add using CETFA’s footage that was played for months on CBC and CTV, c0-created a website dedicated to sow stalls, participated in a campaign asking Tim Hortons to only offer pork products that do not come from gestation-crated sows, organized letter writing campaigns, contacted the media and did many interviews, co-created several petitions and gathered signatures, held information tables and given presentations to classes.
CETFA continues to work towards the end of the use of sow stalls/gestation crates in Canada.