“A new study is raising questions about the effectiveness of small, metal crates for pregnant pigs that animal welfare groups say are cruel and inhumane.”
For decades, the nation’s top pig producers and the scientists in their employ have defended the practice of keeping these 500-pound animals in two-foot-wide crates for virtually their entire four-month pregnancies. The confinement is so harsh that the animals are unable to turn around. They can be subjected to this privation for as long as three years, or for as many as 10 successive pregnancies (video). For this reason, animal advocates have targeted gestation crate confinement as one of the most abusive agribusiness practices currently employed.
© Farm Sanctuary
As recent as this past Wednesday—at a hearing on an HSUS-sponsored bill (AB 594) that would ban gestation crates in California—industry has argued that not using gestation crates would put it at an economic disadvantage. This new study calls that belief into question; in fact, researchers found that group housing structures could reduce costs. On group housing versus gestation crate confinement, the AP story quotes one of the ISU researchers:
"What we found was that there appears to be no real difference in pig performance between the two."
My old boss Cleveland Amory once said that “human beings have an infinite capacity to rationalize their cruelty.” His words ring in my ears almost every day as I hear all manner of apologists for inhumane practices defend human conduct that is, to a common observer, plainly out of bounds.
Finally now, we are breaking through on the issue of intensive confinement of farm animals, though the situation is still too grim for these hapless creatures. Not only is the entire European Union phasing out gestation crates, but voters in Florida and Arizona have now ensured that their states will do the same. In the wake of the Arizona vote this past November, the U.S.’s and Canada’s largest pig producers both announced that they, too, will phase out their use of gestation crates. Now it is time for others to follow, including policy makers.
The success of the anti-gestation crate campaign so far further demonstrates just how out of step animal agribusiness is with the moral sentiments of most Americans, and it also shows what progress the animal movement is capable of when we take an aggressive, results-oriented approach to combating inhumane treatment. We are gaining traction on the issue, and it’s about time.