In this file:
· Farrowing crates for pigs being ruled unlawful is a victory for all animals [NZ]
· Opinion: Broken promise means pigs will suffer in inhumane crates until 2029 [Canada]
Farrowing crates for pigs being ruled unlawful is a victory for all animals
Marcelo Rodriguez Ferrere, Opinion, The Spinoff (New Zealand)
November 18, 2020
Both pigs and humans alike should rejoice over the High Court’s ruling on farrowing crates, writes University of Otago law lecturer Marcelo Rodriguez Ferrere.
If you know anything about pigs, it’ll likely be that despite their slovenly and biblically-dubious reputation, actually, they’re quite clever creatures. As smart as dogs! As smart as chimpanzees! At the very least, pigs are “intelligent, aware, emotionally and socially sophisticated beings.” However, “intelligent” and “sophisticated” aren’t adjectives you’d use to describe New Zealand’s animal welfare system after a damning ruling on Friday by the High Court.
In its judgment, the High Court ruled “farrowing crates” and “mating stalls” for pigs as unlawful. That’s the simple takeaway, and a powerful one it is. But the way Justice Helen Cull reached her decision is revealing of a complex, almost Byzantine system we use to regulate animal welfare in this country. That revelation means the judgment wasn’t simply a victory for pigs and their human advocates – New Zealand Animal Law Association and SAFE – who brought the case to court. It was a victory for all animals, since it exposed some pretty major flaws in our animal welfare system, and will hopefully spur the case for wider reform.
The starting point to any analysis of that system is the Animal Welfare Act 1999. This legislation enshrines the five freedoms for animals which at the time of enactment 20 years ago was a world first. Those freedoms include access to proper and sufficient food, water and shelter. Critically, it also includes the “opportunity to display normal patterns of behaviour”. Anyone who owns or is in charge of animal has a statutory obligation to provide for those freedoms.
About half of all pig farms in New Zealand use farrowing crates and mating stalls. While there are some important differences between them, to the untrained eye they are essentially similar since they serve the same purpose: to prevent the sow from turning around. Mating stalls are used to make mating (or, more likely, artificial insemination) an easier process (for the inseminator). Farrowing crates are used when sows are weaning their piglets, the theory being that if the sow can’t turn around, it minimises the risk that she’ll accidentally crush one of her piglets.
You don’t need to be a pig to see the disjunct here. A pig being able to turn around is surely “a natural pattern of behaviour”. How, then, if the Animal Welfare Act guarantees pigs the “opportunity to display normal patterns of behaviour”, was it ever possible to use mating stalls and farrowing crates? The answer lies in the next tier of our animal welfare system. The Animal Welfare Act allows for the creation of both “Codes of Welfare” and regulations that specify minimum standards for particular animals or industries. There’s a Code of Welfare for everything from commercial slaughter to Llamas and Alpacas. There’s even one for companion cats. If you have a cat and haven’t read that code, you now know why your cat has forever looked unimpressed with you.
Until 2015, Codes of Welfare could specify minimum standards that would otherwise fall below the general requirements of the Animal Welfare Act and those five freedoms. Farrowing crates and mating stalls originally fell under this loophole. However, a big amendment to the Animal Welfare Act in that year meant that thereafter, any standard that fell below would need to be specifically allowed for in regulations, with a view to being phased out eventually.
A body called the National Animal Welfare Advisory Council (NAWAC) is responsible for overseeing these codes and the regulation-making process. The Court found that when it was creating Codes of Welfare for pigs in 2005 and 2010, NAWAC consistently wanted to see both farrowing crates and mating stalls eventually phased out, since it saw them as contrary to the general obligations in the Animal Welfare Act. Yet in 2016, it changed its tune. In a complete change of position, it now viewed farrowing crates and mating stalls as consistent with the act, without the need to be phased out. Bizarrely, the basis for the change in position was because there hadn’t been any change in the science to provide viable alternatives to the crates and stalls. That’s a little like saying, “well, science still hasn’t worked out a way to drink and drive safely at the same time, so instead, we’re just gonna say it’s pretty legal”.
Here’s the thing with regulations and codes of welfare though...
more, including links
Opinion: Broken promise means pigs will suffer in inhumane crates until 2029
by Peter Fricker, Opinion, Daily Hive Toronto
Nov 17 2020
Fricker is Communications Director of the Vancouver Humane Society.
The Canadian pig farming industry is breaking a promise to end the continuous use of inhumane “gestation stalls” that confine pregnant sows so tightly they are unable to turn around.
The industry committed in 2014, outlined in the industry’s Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs, to end the continuous use of gestation stalls and to transition toward group housing (which provides space to allow pigs to move more freely) by 2024.
Pig farmers are now seeking to delay the transition until 2029, despite being given 10 years to make the change. The industry says it can’t meet its commitment by 2024 because of a lack of preparedness and financial issues.
The delay could be granted by the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC), the industry-dominated body that oversees codes of practice for the care and handling of pigs. If so, it will result in hundreds of thousands of pregnant pigs continuing to suffer in the cramped stalls.
The Retail Council of Canada, which represents major grocery retailers in the country, also supported the planned transition away from gestation stalls, saying in 2014 that it was committed to “sourcing pork products from sows raised in alternative housing practices as defined in the updated Codes by the end of 2022.” The council has not said whether it will stand by its commitment now that it appears the pork industry may renege on its commitment.
Animal welfare experts have described gestation stalls as extreme animal confinement equivalent to living in an airline seat.
Dr. Ian Duncan, Emeritus Chair in Animal Welfare at the University of Guelph, has stated: “In my opinion, the practice of keeping sows in gestation crates for most of their pregnancy is one of the cruellest forms of confinement devised by humankind. Sows are intelligent, inquisitive animals who naturally spend their time rooting, foraging and exploring their environment. When kept in extensive conditions, sows engage in various behaviours and lead a rich social life. All of this is completely denied them by gestation crates and leads to enormous frustration.”
Polling has shown that 84% of Canadians support a complete phase-out of gestations stalls. The European Union and several states in the US have banned the stalls.
The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) has launched a campaign...
more, including links