by SUSAN MANN
The organization representing Canadian grocery stores has jumped the gun by stating its members will ban pork sourced from sows raised in gestation crates by 2022, says a Canadian Pork Council official.
That’s because the National Farm Animal Care Council hasn’t yet released the updated code of practice for the care and handling of pigs for public comment, says Rick Bergmann, pork council first vice-chair and a Manitoba farmer with a 1,750-sow farrowing operation. The code is due to be released on June 1.
Meanwhile, Ontario Pork’s board will discuss a mandatory ban on sow gestation crates on May 14, says spokesperson Mary Jane Quinn. At Ontario Pork’s annual meeting in March delegates voted 69-12 against the proposal. But pressure is mounting on them to do so with Tim Hortons and other companies also calling for the pork industry to phase out the use of the gestation crates.
Any Cronin, chair of Ontario Pork, couldn’t be reached for comment.
Bergmann says the “code also might help differentiate science and emotion.” The council looks forward to talking to the Retail Council of Canada to understand “where their perspective is coming from.”
He adds that personally he needs to understand the retail’s council’s perspective to fully grasp what it is saying.
But Bergmann says it’s great the retail council and Tim Hortons are looking forward to the release of the code of practice.
The Retail Council of Canada was formed in 1963 and is the voice of retailers. Its grocery members include Loblaw Companies Limited, Sobeys Inc., Metro Inc., Walmart Canada Corp., Costco Wholesale Canada and others. David Wilkes, senior vice-president of the council’s grocery division, couldn’t be reached for comment.
Bergmann says the retail council’s statement in an April 29 news release that it “believes sows should be housed in an environment where their pregnancy, health and well being are taken into the highest consideration, and that the selection of sow housing be based on a combination of sound science, stakeholder expectations and the long term viability of the industry” meshes with farmers’ goals.
“If they (sows) are going to be comfortable and in a situation where they’re safe and fed, watered and cared for, that’s really our goals as producers,” he says.
When Bergmann started farming in the late 1980s, he had his sows in loose housing. “At that time, we said: ‘Gee there’s got to be a better way.’” That’s when he switched to the gestation pens. “The industry has made a very conscious decision years ago based on welfare and science” to use the pens.
Once he switched he found the sows did better. “These animals are pregnant and they’ve got unborn piglets in them. Whenever you’re going to co-mingle a bunch of animals together there’s always a level of aggression with fighting and biting.”
Keeping the sows in individual pens enables Bergmann to feed them individually and tailor their rations to each sow’s needs, preventing over and under feeding. The gestation pen system also helps to keep employees safe. Animals running around and fighting poses a danger for “my employees,” he explains.
In its news release, the retail council acknowledges the crates allowed for easier sow management, more consistent feeding and fewer sow injuries due to aggressive behaviour but “the restriction in movement has led to concerns that this system inhibits natural behaviours.” Stakeholder expectations have changed and the pork “industry is being encouraged to shift towards alternative housing practices.”
The retail council also says its grocery members support the pork council’s process to update the code of practice “and will work towards sourcing fresh pork products from sows raised in alternative housing practices as defined in the updated codes by the end of 2022.” Each company will implement “this commitment in accordance with their own specific business requirements and in consultation with their vendor partners.” BF