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Grocers agree to eliminate pig gestation crates

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

The announcement was made today by the Mercy For Animals Canada group which had conducted an undercover investigation last year at Puratone, a hog plant in Manitoba's Interlake area.

The Retail Council of Canada and its member grocers Co-op Atlantic, Canada Safeway, Costco Wholesale Canada, Federated Co-operatives, Loblaw Companies Limited, Metro Inc., Sobeys Inc., and Wal-Mart Canada Corp. have agreed to phase out the crates in favour of alternative housing practices such as group housing of sows.

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 the ban on gestation crates is a result of "ethically-minded consumers" taking action.

"For the first time ever in Canada our undercover investigation pulled back the curtains on the cruel and inhumane treatment of pigs crammed in gestation crates back in December," she said.

"As a result of our expose, tens of thousands consumers contacted these leading grocery retailers and urged them to phase out the inherently cruel crates. 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.

"It's so heartening that Canadians are responding so quickly. I knew Canadians wouldn't tolerate it."

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

"I went to the Netherlands and saw a number of the pig farmers that had moved away from these gestation crates and they 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


Updated on Tuesday, April 30, 2013 at 11:13 AM CDT: tweaks headline to better reflect story

1:38 PM: updates

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