The Canadian National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC), a collaboration between the agriculture industry, animal welfare groups, government, and other interested parties, recently released its Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs. According to the NFACC, in creating the code it took into account the best science available compiled through an independent peer-reviewed process, with input from stakeholders. The new code, like the Tyson and Smithfield announcements, falls far short of the high-welfare standards of AWI’s Animal Welfare Approved program. However, it shows that Canada is working toward improving how pigs are treated throughout the country.
The code requires all new buildings used after July 1, 2014, to house sows in groups. It states that “through science and innovation, the Canadian pig industry is committed to full adoption of group housing designs/systems that offer more freedom of movement for sows.” However, the code allows for other forms of housing, as well. By July 1, 2024, sows must be kept in either group housing, individual pens that allow them the freedom to turn around, or stalls—so long as the stalls provide the opportunity to turn around or exercise periodically, or provide “greater freedom of movement” (which will be defined by July 1, 2019).
Other requirements for advancing pig welfare are found throughout the code. For instance, pigs must be given enrichments that enhance their physical and social environments. Behavioral problems such as tail-biting and aggression must be investigated to identify the possible environment, feed, management, or health factors causing the problem. Beginning July 1, 2016, castration and tail-docking cannot be performed without analgesics. Producers must implement standard operating procedures that detail protocols for the identification, care and humane treatment of sick or injured pigs. Pigs unfit for travel must not be loaded onto trucks, and the code provides guidance on when a pig should be considered unfit for travel. The code also recommends that producers, when breeding pigs, genetically select for traits that have positive effects on animal welfare and health.