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Grocery chains abandon suppliers over pig crates

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THE use of inhumane pig gestational crates will be phased out at pork-supply sources used by eight major grocery chains in Canada by the end of 2022.

The Mercy For Animals Canada group made the announcement Tuesday after conducting an undercover investigation last year at Puratone, a hog plant in Manitoba's Interlake area.

The Retail Council of Canada says Walmart Canada, Costco Canada, Metro, Loblaw, Safeway Canada, Federated Co-operatives, Sobey's and Co-op Atlantic have all committed to sourcing their pork from farmers who don't use so-called gestational crates.

Shocking hidden-camera footage taken during the undercover investigation showed "thousands of pregnant pigs crammed into filthy, metal gestation crates barely larger than their own bodies" and prompted a massive public outcry after garnering national media attention, the Mercy For Animals release stated.

Canada's major grocery chains have joined the European Union, Australia, New Zealand and nine U.S. states where gestation crates have already been banned.

Twyla Francois, MFA Canada's director of investigations, said phasing out the gestation crates is a result of "ethically minded consumers" taking action.

"As a result of our exposé, tens of thousands of consumers contacted these leading grocery retailers and urged them to phase out the inherently cruel crates," Francois said. "We're really pleased the retailers have made the socially and ethically responsible decision to move away from this practice. It is one of the most cruel factory-farming practices in existence."

David Wilkes, the senior vice-president of the Retail Council of Canada, said the date of 2022 is part of the commitment made by the RCC and its members.

"We believe it will take some time to plan and implement these changes," said Wilkes.

He said the RCC grocery members will work with the Canadian Pork Council and the National Farm Animal Care Council to "work toward sourcing fresh pork products from sows raised in alternative housing practices."

Francois said the group housing of sows is an economical alternative already in use in European countries. Pigs live together, as they had for thousands of years of farming history, and have the space to walk, lie down and form social bonds.

"The pig industry says the pigs were put in these crates because they are aggressive creatures, they're cruel, they'll bully one another. They are like any other socially domesticated animal, like dogs, where they do have a hierarchy, but they'll work that out within a couple of days and they'll all quickly recognize which one is the leader," Francois said.

"I went to the Netherlands and saw a number of the pig farmers that had moved away from these gestation crates and they (the pigs) got along quite fine. There were often sows that would develop friendships and they would create their nests together and have their piglets together."

She said the public-awareness factor will force the major grocery chains to follow through on their commitment to use only suppliers who have phased out the gestation crates.

To see photos and for more information, go to

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 1, 2013 B4


Updated on Wednesday, May 1, 2013 at 8:03 AM CDT: adds photo

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