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January 09, 2014

Even More Progress for Pigs in Gestation Crates

On Tuesday, Smithfield Foods announced it is upgrading its animal policies by providing incentives for its contract farmers to move away from gestation crates.

Gestation crate
The HSUS
Tyson sent a letter to farmers in its pork supply system
indicating that gestation crates ought to be replaced
with alternative housing systems.

Today, Tyson Foods, another major pork producer, also took steps in that direction. The company, whose production is conducted primarily through its contractors and independent suppliers, has sent a letter to all the farmers in its pork system outlining desired improvements in its animal welfare program. While the letter contains several promising points on a variety of issues, like encouraging a shift away from “euthanizing” sick or injured piglets through blunt force trauma and urging the development of pain relief during castration and tail docking, the stand-out, in our view, is Tyson’s language on the issue of sow gestation crate confinement.

“We believe future sow housing should allow sows of all sizes to stand, turn around, lie down and stretch their legs,” writes Tyson, indicating that gestation crates – which prevent those behaviors – ought to be replaced with alternative housing systems. “We’re asking the contract farmers who manage Tyson-owned sows,” it continues, “to implement improved ‘quality and quantity of space’ standards in the design of any newly built or redesigned gestation barns beginning in 2014. We also strongly encourage the hog farmers who sell market hogs to Tyson to improve quantity and quality of space standards for sows when they or their piglet suppliers re-design or build new gestation barns.”

Unfortunately, Tyson’s letter does not mandate anything of its suppliers with regard to sow housing, nor does it outline any timeline by which alternative housing systems must be in place. Nonetheless, this is big movement from an important company. Tyson may still have a ways to go when it comes to shoring up a gestation crate-free supply system, but its first steps on this issue – like all steps on the path toward a more humane way of living or conducting business – are most welcome.

P.S. In response to this news, The HSUS has withdrawn the shareholder proposal on gestation crates that we’d previously submitted for Tyson’s 2014 proxy.

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