OTTAWA, Ontario – Stakeholders in Canada's hog industry have agreed to a gradual phase-out of gestation stalls in pork production by 2024. The agreement is part of revised industry guidelines for handling pigs in Canada.

Significant changes to the pig code include a commitment to adopt "loose housing" for sows and gilts in all new facilities built after July 1, 2014, new pain control requirements during castration and tail docking, and enhanced environmental enrichment.

Developments in hog housing systems have been driven largely by major players in the foodservice and retail industries, which have started requiring their pork suppliers to phase out gestation stalls. Companies such as McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Tim Horton’s, Kraft Foods, Sysco and Aramark — all have announced new welfare requirements for hog producers. Large pork producers such as Smithfield, Cargill and Hormel also have previously announced plans to eliminate gestation stalls. Those large companies, in turn, have responded to increasing consumer concerns about animal welfare and handling.

The updated Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs is the culmination of three years of consultations, debates and negotiations among a 17-member committee comprised of representatives from the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, pig producers, scientists, transporters, pork processors, veterinarians and government.

“This Code reflects producers’ continued commitment to animal health and welfare and dedication to responsible animal husbandry,” says Florian Possberg, chair of the pig Code Development Committee. “The groups around the table worked well together. There were many challenges to updating the Code but we worked through them methodically. We took a science — informed focus, looking at what's best for the animals but also reasonable and practical for the industry."