MONTREAL, Quebec – Eight of the largest Canadian supermarket chains will phase out the use of gestation stalls by their suppliers, according to the Retail Council of Canada.

Walmart Canada, Costco Canada, Metro, Loblaw, Safeway Canada, Federated Co-operatives, Sobeys and Co-op Atlantic plan to phase out gestation stall confinement of sows over the next nine years. In a statement, the Retail Council of Canada said that while gestation stalls have promoted easier management of sows through more consistent feeding and fewer injuries from aggression, the confinement system has raised concerns that the stalls inhibits natural behaviors.

"Increasingly, stakeholder expectations have also been changing and industry is being encouraged to shift towards alternative housing practices," RCC said. "We are working closely with the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) and the Canadian Pork Council through a robust, multi-stakeholder process to update the Pig Codes of Practice, to be released for public comment on June 1, 2013. The Pig Code update proactively deals with a number of issues relevant to pig welfare.

"The Retail Council of Canada believes that sows should be housed in an environment where their pregnancy, health and well-being are taken into 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."

"We applaud the Retail Council of Canada and its members for taking seriously one of the most critical animal welfare issues in food production today," said Sayara Thurston, campaigner with Humane Society International/Canada. "The Canadian food industry has made it clearer than ever that these unsustainable and inhumane cages have no future in pork production, and we encourage pork producers to make the transition to group housing systems as quickly as possible."

Tim Hortons announced plans to phase out pork sourced from suppliers that use gestation stalls, while Olymel and Maple Leaf Foods, Inc. have pledged to eliminate the stalls from their pork production operations.