The American Association of Swine Veterinarians has removed a statement on gestation stalls from its policy on sow housing, but the organization reportedly has not changed its position on that type of housing.
Dr. Tom Burkgren, AASV executive director, said the organization’s Pig Welfare Committee did not want to consider any specific type of sow housing apart from others, but rather, give general requirements. He also said certain housing terms, such as “gestation stall,” can be misused or their meanings can gradually change.
The policy enacted this past fall replaces a similar policy enacted in 2002. The policy, like its predecessor, lists attributes needed for the AASV to find housing to be appropriate.
The 2002 policy stated that scientific literature indicates individual gestation stalls meet all the AASV criteria for acceptable housing, “provided the appropriate level of stockmanship is administered.” However, dozens of companies, including national grocery store chains, restaurant chains, and food service corporations, announced during 2012 that they planned to eventually stop buying pork produced through use of gestation stalls.
Dr. Burkgren said the committee wanted the AASV policy to be correct and based in scientific literature and data, not a reaction to recent attention by news media and retail industries. Focusing on one type of housing is a disservice to sows, which need broader welfare considerations based in science, he said.
Dr. Burkgren thinks many retailers instead are deciding which sow housing is acceptable on the basis of marketing and brand protection.
The AASV policy update also adds a statement that sows and piglets should have housing that allows appropriate behavior and minimizes inappropriate behavior “within the constraints of the housing type.”
The Pig Welfare Committee wants pigs to be able to express the widest range of appropriate behaviors as possible, Dr. Burkgren said, but owners also need to consider problem behaviors such as aggression among animals. For example, he said fighting is more difficult to control in group housing than in individual housing.