Australian pig farmers voted in favour of a voluntary phase-out in 2010 and Australian Pork Limited (APL) said that a survey of producers had shown good progress so far, with one in three sows (33%) not housed in stalls at any point of their pregnancy.
Additionally, it found that 80% of sows were kept in sow stalls for fewer than six weeks, meaning that the majority of the industry is already meeting its requirements under Australia’s 2007 Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals – Pigs, which states that “from 10 years after endorsement of the code, a sow must not be confined in a stall for more than six weeks of any gestation period".
Andrew Spencer, APL CEO, said: “This actually means 80% of the industry is five years ahead of the regulations. The other clear indicators of progress are the fact that, on average, two-thirds of sows, at any one point in time during pregnancy, are not in a stall at all and are housed in groups.”
The survey found that the biggest use of sow stalls currently occurs at between one and four weeks after mating, but APL expressed confidence that the use of sow stalls could be phased out altogether by 2017.
“The Australian pork industry has given a strong commitment to make the phasing-out of sow stalls a reality. Clear indications are now showing the industry is well ahead of its 2017 target,” said Spencer.
The Australian industry is the first in the world to voluntarily phase out sow stalls and has won praise from animal welfare organisations as a result.
RSPCA Australia CEO Heather Neil said: “It’s good to see this commitment by Australian pork producers and a third of sows already benefiting from a stall-free environment. The RSPCA appreciates the significance of the commitment these pig producers have made and we look forward to monitoring the industry progress towards a complete end to the use of sow stalls in Australia.”