Taiwan Urged to Ban Gestation Crates for Pigs

TAIWAN - Taiwan should do away with gestation crates for sows and adopt a more civilized means of intensive pig farming, an animal protection group said Wednesday.
calendar icon 15 May 2017
clock icon 4 minute read

In Taiwan, some 600,000 sows are kept in gestation crates, metal enclosures for the confinement of breeding pigs, the Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST) said at a press conference.

It suggested that Taiwan look at more humane methods of pig farming that are used in European Union, Focus Taiwan reports.

At the press conference, the EAST screened a film that showed the plight of sows in Taiwan that are kept in gestation crates and suggested that the Council of Agriculture set a timeline for phasing out that type of enclosure, which is also known as a sow stall.

Chen Yu-min, a senior executive of EAST, said a seven-month-old female pig will be kept in a 2x0.7-meter iron stall for about four months during pregnancy.

The pregnant pig can only stand or lie down on one side inside the stall and cannot move even one step forward or backward, Ms Chen said.

The pig's belly would grow until it is pushing against iron bars of the enclosure, which damages the skin, he said, adding that on some farms pregnant pigs have to lie in their own waste.

The sow will later be moved to a delivery enclosure, which is not much bigger since it is designed only for the purpose of suckling the piglets, according to EAST.

After suckling her piglets for 21-28 days, the sow will then be moved to a nurture cage, where she will spend five to nine days before being inseminated again, the organization said.

In 2016, 5.54 million pigs were raised on 7,609 farms in Taiwan to supply 90 per cent of the pork on the domestic market, while 10 per cent was imported, according government data.

Ms Chen said a sow gives birth 1.5 to 2.4 times a year on average, each time to 8-12 piglets. A fertile sow could give birth seven times in three years, she said.

If a sow fails twice in row to produce at least eight piglets, it is slaughtered to make meatballs, Ms Chen said.

The use of gestation crates in pig faming not only adversely affects the sows mentally and physically, it also shortens their lifespan and thereby lowers farmers' profits, Ms Chen said, citing European studies.

A COA study in 2009 showed that sows in Taiwan produce an average 14 hogs each for the market, compared with 22 in Denmark, she said.

This means only 68-72 per cent of piglets in Taiwan reach the market, while in Denmark the figure is 80 per cent, Ms Chen said.

She said all EU countries have abolished gestation crates in pig farming since 2013, and Canada and the United States are considering doing the same.

"It is time that the COA set a timetable for Taiwan to phase out gestation crates for pigs and adopt group raising," she said.

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