There’s no denying that animals’ welfare continues to interest the public. In particular, many people are interested in learning more about the care of the animals used in food production, and some consumers are making their food choices based on their concerns about animals’ welfare.
One highly controversial issue during the past few years has been the use of gestation stalls to house pregnant sows. Stalls have been the most common housing system for decades, but questions have been raised about their impact on the welfare of the pigs.
Although the debate over the use of stalls is often presented as a black-and-white issue, determining an animal’s welfare in any situation isn’t as simple as it may seem. An honest assessment of an animal’s welfare involves objective evaluation of many factors, such as environmental complexity, handling/stockmanship, genetics, feeding practices, flooring, bedding and climate, in addition to the type of housing used.
To help balance the discussion about housing pregnant sows and to refocus it on productively addressing the challenges presented by existing housing systems, our Animal Welfare Division at the request of our Animal Welfare Committee has prepared a backgrounder on sow housing. It provides an overview of the advantages, disadvantages and other considerations regarding the three main types of housing for pregnant sows: gestation stalls, group housing and free-range housing.
We hope this backgrounder will benefit the conversations surrounding this issue so that good decisions can be made.