Swine bills thwarted

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Bills aimed at outlawing the practice of confining pregnant sows in gestation crates have run out of steam in two states, New York and Maryland. Veterinarians were key in thwarting the bills.

Currently, Florida is the only state that outlaws the use of individual sow gestation stalls (see JAVMA, Dec. 15, 2002, page 1670). Florida voters passed an amendment to the state constitution prohibiting it on Nov. 6, 2002.

In February, California State Assembly Agriculture Committee member Loni Hancock introduced a bill (A.B. 372) to prohibit confining a pig during pregnancy so that it can't turn around. California is home to roughly 27,000 sows and gilts. The bill also proposed prohibiting confining a calf so it can't turn around, lie down with its limbs and neck outstretched, or groom itself freely. In May, however, Hancock pulled the bill, citing an inadequate number of votes to get the bill out of the committee.

In Maryland, House of Delegates member James Hubbard and state Sen. Sharon Grosfield introduced bills in February to ban the confinement of pregnant pigs in gestation crates. These bills were also unsuccessful. By a vote of 13-8, the House Environmental Matters Committee killed H.B. 755 in early March; one week later, Grosfield withdrew her bill (S.B. 271).

Both the California VMA and the Maryland VMA actively lobbied against the bills in their respective states. The AVMA provided information to the two associations to help their efforts. Dr. John R. Brooks, deputy secretary for Maryland's Department of Agriculture and an AVMA House of Delegates member, says that while Maryland legislators might have thought they could slide the bill through easily in a state with few pigs, they were mistaken.

The AVMA supports the use of sow housing configurations that minimize aggression and competition between sows; protect sows from detrimental effects associated with environmental extremes, particularly temperature extremes; reduce exposure to hazards that result in injuries; provide every animal with daily access to appropriate food and water; and facilitate observation of individual sow appetite, respiratory rate, urination and defecation, and reproductive status by caretakers.

Current scientific literature indicates that individual gestation stalls meet each of the aforementioned criteria, provided the appropriate level of stockmanship is administered.