Australia's pork producers have phased out over 60% of sows housed in gestation stalls.
AUSTRALIA'S pork producers have passed another key milestone in their move to voluntarily phase out the use of sow gestation stalls.
Interim survey results of industry progress on the phase-out show that more than 60% of sows are gestation stall free. The industry forecasts that when the survey is completed, more than two-thirds of Australian sows will meet the gestation stall-free phase-out definition.
According to Australian Pork Ltd. (APL), gestation stall free means that a sow will spend only up to five days in a mating stall to stabilize pregnancy and then later will be moved into a farrowing crate or birthing stall up to a week before she is due to give birth.
In this way, under the gestation stall-free definition, Australia's pregnant sows spend a maximum of just 10% of their total pregnancy individually confined.
In a speech to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural & Resource Economics & Sciences Outlook Conference in Canberra, Australia, APL chief executive officer Andrew Spencer said, "This is a world-leading initiative boosting Australia's animal welfare credentials globally that puts us well ahead of what is happening in other countries. In Europe, pregnant sows are confined for up to 30% of their pregnancy (except in the Netherlands and the U.K.), while in North America (the U.S. and Canada), they still typically use gestation stalls for the entirety of a sow's pregnancy."
Spencer added, "The gestation stall phase-out initiative was our industry's response to meet the growing desires among consumers for higher-welfare food, balanced with ensuring the long-term sustainability of the industry by managing the transition in a balanced, cost-controlled way. Our industry's ability to make the change has come through millions of dollars of investment in research and development, with estimates of well over $50 million to complete this change made voluntarily by farmers."
He acknowledged, however, that pork producers "still face considerable difficulties and challenges. This includes competition from subsidized, imported pork sent to Australia from countries with lower welfare standards than we have here. At the same time, our industry has been impacted by high-profile campaigns from anti-farming groups that have misled consumers and, worse still, farm invasions by these groups under the guise of protecting animal welfare. If animal welfare is the true motivation for these groups, then they should be supporting Australian farmers in implementing their world-leading initiative."
Spencer explained that the broader challenge for Australian pig farmers is not only communicating the phase-out initiative's positive effects on animal welfare but also the industry's leadership on environmental initiatives, including byproduct management, reducing carbon emissions and improving production costs.