In 2021 1,253,436 sows were kept for breeding in Canada and 14.3 million pigs.
In 2014, Canada’s pork industry vowed to end their use of gestation crates—individual pens in which pregnant pigs are confined—by 2024. Now, industry stakeholders are proposing a five-year extension that will push the phaseout to 2029. According to animal welfare experts, the new timeline would mean massive suffering for millions of pigs.
A gestation crate is a metal enclosure that measures two feet wide by nearly seven feet long. That’s “a little bit longer than the length of a pig and a little bit wider than the width of a pig, so the pig in the crate can’t turn around,” says Ian Duncan, an emeritus professor of animal welfare science at the University of Guelph in Ontario.
Sows are often locked in these crates for the entire four months of their pregnancy. But because it’s common practice to repeatedly impregnate sows until they are slaughtered around age four, many wind up in gestation crates for the majority of their lives. The National Farm Animal Care Council(NFACC) estimates that 70% of the breeding sows in Canada—which amounts to nearly 900,000 animals per year as of 2019—continue to spend most of their lives confined in gestation crates.
Sows can develop pressure sores, weakened bones, and urinary tract infections from having to lie in their own faeces.