Example: Gestation Crates
Sows are female pigs used for breeding purposes. They become “culled” at the end of their peak reproductive years – at about 24 to 30 months of age. They are then sent to slaughter for their meat which is turned into sausage links and patties.The life of a sow is one filled with misery, deprivation, chronic frustration and heartache. The majority of these live all of their adult lives in metal barred cages about 2 feet wide by 7 feet long. These “gestation crates” are so small that the sow cannot turn around. Gestation stalls are used to keep as many pregnant sows as possible in an enclosed space. Sows in these stalls are only allowed to take one step forward and one step back. This is where the sow must eat, sleep, urinate and defecate. Her floor consists of bare concrete with no straw to lay on. And things are only getting worse: because of selective breeding sows are becoming larger faster, meaning many are so large that their sides permanently rub on the bars along the sides of the crate, causing pressure wounds and near immobilization.
All breeding sows are kept perpetually pregnant giving birth approximately every 4 months (3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days). All of her natural instincts to make a nest to keep her soon-to-be born piglets safe and warm are thwarted as she is provided with no straw to dig in. Immediately before giving birth, the sow is moved to a “farrowing crate” – a cage that will keep her separated from her piglets but still allows them to nurse off her. Within a few days (10-21) her piglets will be taken from her and the insemination is repeated again.
Because of their intensive, prolonged confinement, sows are in a particularly health compromised state by the time they are transported to slaughter. They often suffer from crippling arthritis, which fuses the bones in their legs together causing extreme pain and lameness. They also suffer other bone and joint problems such as weakened bones and fractures. Because of selective breeding, their bodies grow too quickly for their hearts to keep up causing them to be prone to severe respiratory distress and heart attacks.Alternatives to sow stalls exist and are in use in many countries. Group housing on straw is the simplest model and one that’s been around for hundreds of years. It allows groups of pregnant sows to freely walk around, root and create nests. Sow stalls are already banned in Great Britian, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland. The European Union is currently phasing out the use of gestation stalls and in 2013, their use will be illegal. In the United States, Florida, California and Arizona have voted to ban the stalls in their states. It is now time for the other states to follow.
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