Retail giants take the lead in animal welfare

Sow crates will soon be phased out with Pick N Pay and Woolworths announcing its commitment to accelerate the progress on the welfare of pigs in SA. (Gallo)

Sow crates will soon be phased out with Pick N Pay and Woolworths announcing its commitment to accelerate the progress on the welfare of pigs in SA. (Gallo)

The National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) has welcomed the trend of phasing out the use of sow crates, a metal enclosure used in commercial pig farming where a female breeding pig is restrained during its pregnancy. 

Pick n Pay group strategy and corporate affairs director David North said all fresh pork sold in Pick n Pay stores must come from farms that use group housing for pregnant sows during the gestation period, allowing freedom of movement and social interaction for the animals from next year December. North added that this commitment will be extended to cover all processed pork products manufactured by Pick n Pay from December 31 2016. 

In an interview with the Mail & Guardian, spokesperson of the NSPCA, Chris Kuch, said the phasing out of sow crates was in line with international trends. “Woolworths took the lead and now Pick n Pay. We would like it to become a trend and we definitely support this. Internationally it’s a welfare issue and countries are phasing it [sow crates] out,” said Kuch. 

In addition, Kuch said a complete phase out by the end of December 2016 would be ideal because “it improves the space and freedom of the pig, which is better for the wellbeing of the animal”. In July, Woolworths announced it will have “Kind to Sows” stickers, which will be found in products such as bacon, boerewors and sausages from December this year. 

But even with these changes, Kuch said NSPCA was still concerned about the lack of regulation in the industry. “We have submitted a proposed regulation [of sow stalls] to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries last year,” said Kuch. North shared the sentiments. He said the major challenge is that there is no legislation on phasing out sow stalls in South Africa. He said the voluntary industry deadline didn’t take effect until 2020. 

“We think this timetable is too slow. We have therefore been working with our suppliers and with animal welfare organisations on how we can move on a much faster and more ambitious timescale,” said North. 

Sow stalls are standard practice in South Africa and keep pregnant females in restrictive stalls for the 16-week gestation period. They can stand up and lie down, but not turn around. The industry has made plans to eradicate sow stalls by 2020, but both Woolworths and Pick n Pay will start the process much sooner.

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