Canadian company's swift decision mirrors Smithfield's.

Within a week of Smithfield Foods' announcement that it is eliminating sow gestation stalls over 10 years (See “Smithfield to Phase Out Gestation Stalls,” pages 32-33 in this issue), Canada's largest pork producer and processor, Maple Leaf Foods, unveiled a similar phaseout plan.

“The Canadian Pork Council (CPC) recognizes the right of these firms to make marketing decisions to respond to their companies' needs. Both Canadian and U.S. firms state that there is no conclusive evidence that one sow housing system is better than another,” says CPC President Clare Schlegel of Tavistock, Ontario.

The Canadian leader went on to point out that animal welfare involves a host of factors, including housing, management and barn environment. “Sow housing is only one of many that need to be addressed to have optimal animal welfare,” he says.

In 2005, the CPC introduced its Animal Care Assessment (ACA) to set minimum standards for care on Canadian hog farms. The ACA covers critical areas of animal welfare, including housing.

“Our industry recognizes that some consumers have expressed concerns about current sow housing systems, and the CPC remains committed to taking a leadership role in examining sow housing alternatives,” Schlegel says.

“It will be important to fully understand the welfare and management implications of current and new housing systems. Efforts to move to new systems should be supported, but only if the new approaches lead to improved animal welfare,” he adds.

Humane Society International and The Humane Society of the United States applauded the latest decision, declaring that an animal welfare revolution is underway in North America.

Maple Leaf's decision to phase out gestation stalls in favor of group sow housing will affect 116,000 animals.