The U.S. pork industry builds its animal care and well-being programs on the foundation of “What is best for the pig?” U.S. pork producers have a moral obligation to provide the best human care for their animals. However, questions regarding one type of production system that utilizes gestation stalls have led to calls for changes that may not provide benefits for the animal and may endanger the health of the sow and her unborn piglets, food safety and the environment.
The sow housing issue remains an important legislative topic across the country. Since 2001, when voters in Florida amended their constitution to ban the use of gestation stalls, a number of similar pieces of legislation and a variety of regulations have been offered in at least eight states, including: Oregon, Maryland, Texas, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Colorado and California. This issue has been seized upon by animal rights groups, are focusing their organizing power and funding in states with “citizen-friendly” ballot initiative processes and relatively small livestock populations. In 2006, Arizona voters approved a ban on gestation stalls. Oregon voters approved a similar ban in 2007. In 2008, a voluntary phase-out of gestation stalls was undertaken by the industry in Colorado and pending in California is Proposition 2, a ballot initiative that bans gestation stalls, veal crates and laying hen cages.
NPPC supports the position of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) on sow housing. The AVMA supports the use of sow housing that “minimizes aggression and competition between sows; protects sows from detrimental effects associated with environmental extremes, particularly temperature extremes; reduces exposure to hazards that result in injuries; provides every animal with daily access to appropriate food and water; and facilitates observation by caretakers of individual sow appetites, respiratory rates, urination and defecation and reproductive status.” The AVMA further notes that “current scientific literature indicates that gestation stalls meet each of the aforementioned criteria, provided the appropriate level of stockmanship is administered.”
NPPC opposes efforts to prohibit production practices and remains committed to using its resources to fight any legislation or regulation that prevents pork producers from using the most beneficial means of housing sows. The pork industry has named sow housing as one of its highest research priorities and has put more than $500,000 toward sow housing research to learn how best to optimize types of housing systems while providing for the well-being of pigs. Educational resources are also available to producers through programs and printed materials such as PQA PlusTM and the Swine Care Handbook and through workshops such as the industry’s Sow Housing Forum held in May 2007.
The pork industry opposes legislation that would mandate on-farm food-animal production practices, including banning the use of individual sow housing, because scientific research has shown that there is no one, single best way to house a pregnant sow. To mandate any one type of sow housing system is not in the best interest of the pigs. The pork industry cannot accept non-science based directives about production practices that are advocated by animal rights activists that do not know pork production and have a vegetarian-based agenda masked as a concern for animal welfare.