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August 28, 2012

SUBWAY Restaurants Condemns Controversial Pig Cages, Will Work with Pork Suppliers to Improve Animal Welfare

The first SUBWAY restaurant opened up in my home state of Connecticut in 1965, the year I was born. The company has done a lot of growing since then. SUBWAY Restaurants has annual sales topping $1 billion and more locations (37,000) than any other restaurant chain in the world.

Now, SUBWAY has announced its support for the elimination of gestation crates in the pork industry, showing that yet another giant in the food retail sector has acknowledged that the extreme confinement of breeding sows is not something that can be defended or ignored.

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“We support the elimination of crate style housing for gestation sows and have had this eliminated from our pork suppliers in the UK,” SUBWAY states in the new “Animal Welfare” section of its website. “Also, our pork suppliers in the US have begun to transition to a more humane process including the elimination of gestation crates and anticipate having this process completed within the next 10 years.”

The similar announcements made recently by McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Oscar Mayer, Costco, Safeway, Kroger, and other leading food companies signal a reversal in a three-decade-old trend in the pork industry that leaves most mother pigs confined day and night in gestation crates during their four-month pregnancy. These cages are roughly the same size as the animals’ bodies and designed to prevent them from even turning around. Mother pigs are subsequently transferred into another crate to give birth, re-impregnated, and put back into a gestation crate. This happens pregnancy after pregnancy for their entire lives, adding up to years of virtual immobilization.

This confinement system has also come under fire from veterinarians, farmers, animal welfare advocates, animal scientists, consumers, and more. Nine U.S. states have passed laws to ban the gestation crate confinement of mother pigs. Renowned animal welfare scientist and advisor to the pork industry, Dr. Temple Grandin, is clear on this issue: “Confining an animal for most of its life in a box in which it is not able to turn around does not provide a decent life.” Grandin further states, “We’ve got to treat animals right, and the gestation stalls have got to go.” And leading pork producers Smithfield and Hormel have pledged to end the use of gestation crates at their company-owned facilities by 2017. 

The Humane Society of the United States supports the progress SUBWAY is making on this issue, and we’re glad to see it joining the list of major food companies working with their pork suppliers to end the confinement of pigs in gestation crates.

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