Brazil, the largest pork producer in Latin America, struck a body blow to inhumane sow gestation crates today with two major announcements. First, BRF, Brazil's largest pork producer, announced that it will eliminate the lifelong confinement of breeding sows in gestation crates on company-owned and contract farms – a move expected to affect more than 300,000 animals. At the same time, the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply signed formal agreements with the Brazilian Association of Pig Farmers and the European Union (EU) to encourage the country's pork producers to end the use of these pre-birthing crates. Under the agreements, Brazilian pork producers will be provided with research and training to facilitate their successful transition to more humane group housing systems.
The announcements by Brazil's national government and by BRF, producer of the brands Sadia and Perdigão, come on the heels of 2014 announcements from other major pig-producing nations to phase out the crates. The European Union's ban on the continuous use of gestation crates came into effect in 2013. Australia's phase-out ends in 2017, New Zealand's ends next year, and Canada's in 2024. The South African pork industry is considering a phase-out of crates by 2020. This is nothing short of momentous movement in the global campaign to halt the use of crates, and The HSUS and Humane Society International have been catalysts for this action.
Gestation crates are barely larger than the animals' bodies. Sows confined in them typically suffer from severe health problems, including infections, weakened bones, overgrown hooves, poor social interaction, lameness, and the psychological torment of being immobilized for months and years on end. Our team at HSI has been working for more than five years with pork producers, food retail companies, and the government in Brazil - to shift away from gestation crates and towards more humane group housing systems.
HSI's work in Latin America has already led Arcos Dorados, the largest McDonald's franchisee in Latin America, to ask all of its pig suppliers in Latin America in April this year to present plans to promote group housing systems for breeding sows.
In August, Nestlé, the world's largest food company, followed suit by committing to phase out crates throughout its global supply chain, including in Brazil. More than 60 multinational food companies – including McDonald's, Burger King, Subway, Sodexo, and Compass Group (GRSA in Brazil)-have agreed to eliminate gestation crates from their supply chains. Nine U.S. states have banned, or are phasing out the use of crates, and a bill is sitting on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's desk to ban them in the Garden State.
With every new corporation or country that turns away from crates, we get that much closer to the end of the era of extreme confinement of animals on factory farms. Today's move by global agricultural giant Brazil is a great cause for celebration, a symbol of hope, and a reminder of the universal appeal of our values of decency and compassion for all life.