Yesterday afternoon, David Amess MP introduced the Pig Husbandry (Farrowing) Bill to the UK Parliament, which was subsequently passed to the second stage. This stage is the second reading of the Bill, which allows MPs to debate the main principles of the Bill, before deciding whether the Bill should progress to Committee stage for detailed examination.
Around 200,000 sows are confined to farrowing crates across England each year, which is just over 50% of England’s farmed sows. If this Bill is passed, then it would #EndTheCageAge for pigs in England. It is imperative that the Scottish Government does not now lag behind.
In 2018/9, we joined the #EndTheCageAge movement, and together with 170 other like-minded animal welfare organisations and citizens, are campaigning for an end to the use of farmed animal cages in the EU.
More than 1.5 million EU citizens signed the End the Cage Age European Citizens Initiative that called on the European Commission to end the inhumane suffering of caged farmed animals by banning animal agriculture cages currently in use throughout Europe, including enriched cages for hens and farrowing crates.
Switzerland, Sweden, Austria and Germany, which is in particular a major pig farming nation, have all enacted legislation to ban farrowing crates. England could be the next country to follow suit. Scotland, meanwhile, has taken no action to #EndTheCageAge for its pigs. This is despite the clear animal welfare issues of confining a sow to a crate so small that she is unable to turn around.
Pig welfare issues
A week before they are due to give birth and for 3-4 weeks thereafter, sows are confined to farrowing crates so small that they are unable to even fully turn around, or move away if their piglets bite them while feeding (which they do in competition for teats because we have selectively bred pigs for bigger litters, so there are more piglets than teats available).
Sows may suffer from a range of health issues, such as painful sores and fatigue, from the immobility imposed upon them by farrowing crates. The lack of, or inadequate provision of, materials such as straw or peat also stops sows from fulfilling their strong nest-building motivation and this causes stress.
We can do better
The aim of farrowing crates is to reduce piglet mortality by preventing the sow from accidentally crushing her piglets. Scientific research shows, though, that in free farrowing systems pig mortality can be as low or even lower than in farrowing crates.
How can I help?
We are currently petitioning the Scottish Government to ban enriched cages for egg-laying hens and farrowing crates for pregnant sows. We’ve increased our signature target to 7,000, so please add your name here.