Animal Law in the Spotlight: Sow Confinement Bill 2015

On 4 June 2015, Greens NSW Animal Welfare spokesperson Dr Mehreen Faruqi reintroduced the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Amendment (Restrictions on Pig Keeping) Bill 2015 (the Bill) into the NSW State Parliament.

The Bill proposes to prohibit all NSW pig producers from keeping pigs in sow stalls by 2017, matching the timeframe proposed by Australian Pork Limited’s (APL) voluntary industry phase out.1 The Bill also proposes an additional phase out of farrowing crates by 2020.2

If it is passed, NSW will become the second state or territory in Australia to legally ban sow stalls following recent reforms in the ACT and the first to ban farrowing crates.

Why ban the use of sow stalls and farrowing crates?

Sow stalls and farrowing crates are used on factory farms to confine female breeder pigs. The current industry guidelines permit producers to confine a pregnant pig in a sow stall – a small metal and concrete cage which is barely larger than a mother pig’s body – for the whole duration of her pregnancy.3 Farrowing crates can also be used for the weeks immediately before and after a sow gives birth to her piglets. Farrowing crates can be even more restrictive than sow stalls, with many preventing sows from even being able to stand up.4

The science tells us that sow stalls and farrowing crates cause serious physical and psychological harm to pregnant pigs. In recognition of this, sow stalls have already been banned in the UK and Sweden, with New Zealand to follow suit in December 2015. Sweden is the only country to have banned the use of farrowing crates.5

What the Bill will do

The Bill amends the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 (NSW) by adding new section 8A(1) which makes it an offence not to keep a pig in “appropriate accommodation” at all times.

Appropriate accommodation is defined in new section 8A(2) as shelter which allows a pig to:

  • turn around, stand up and lie down without difficulty;
  • lie down to a clean, comfortable and adequately drained place;
  • maintain a comfortable body temperature; and
  • access an outdoor area.

New section 8A(2)(b) also provides a definition for appropriate accommodation in terms of “group housing” where pigs are housed together in small groups rather than being kept in solitary confinement.

The transitional provisions are provided in sections 8A(3) and (4), which state that a person is not guilty of an offence if they are keeping a pig in a sow stall before 1 January 2017, or a farrowing crate before 1 January 2020, respectively.

A maximum penalty is proposed for each offence of $42,500 (or 250 penalty units) for a body corporate and $8,500 (or 50 penalty units) and/or imprisonment for six months for an individual.

But isn’t the industry phasing out sow stalls?

APL has committed to a voluntary phase out of sow stalls by 2017. While this is a step in the right direction, there are significant gaps in APL’s phase out:

·         Sows will spend less rather than no time in confinement.

Under APL’s phase out, sows can still be confined to mating stalls for up to five days during pregnancy and farrowing crates for the week leading up to birthing, and for four weeks after. APL’s alternative to sow stalls – loose housing – will also continue to see sows confined in isolation, with no outdoor access, but with enough room to “stretch their legs” and “turn around”.

·         Not all pig meat producers are covered by the phase out.

The voluntary phase out only applies to pig meat producers who are members of APL. According to industry statistics, while the vast majority of pig meat comes from APL members, they only represent 38% of Australian producers.

·         Voluntary phase outs are unenforceable and historically ineffective.

As the phase out is voluntary and is not legally enforceable, there are no penalties or legal ramifications that will apply to pig meat producers who fail to comply. Further, as evidenced by the Australian wool industry’s failed commitment to phase out mulesing by 2010, industry-led voluntary phase outs simply do not guarantee that animals will be protected from cruelty.

·         Self-regulation is unreliable and ineffective in stamping out cruelty.

As the repeated live export exposés and the recent greyhound racing live baiting scandal demonstrate, industry self-regulation is an entirely ineffective means of ensuring that animals are protected from cruelty.

Now is the time to show your support.

Tell your State MP that you support the Greens NSW bill to ban sow stalls and farrowing crates.
 

Not in NSW? You can be a voice for pigs in your state and support a nationwide call for a legally enforceable ban on sow stalls in Australia.

It’s time to relegate these cruel devices to history. Let’s make it law.

  • 1. NSW Greens, “Greens Reintroduce Bill to Protect Pigs by Banning Sow Stalls in NSW” (4 June 2015) <http://nsw.greens.org.au/news/nsw/greens-reintroduce-bill-protect-pigs-b..., accessed 17 June 2015; Australian Pork, “Industry Focus: Housing” <http://australianpork.com.au/industry-focus/animal-welfare/housing/>, accessed 17 June 2015.
  • 2. Amendment of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 (NSW), Section 8A(4).
  • 3. The current permitted dimensions of sow stalls are 2.2 metres by 0.6 metres for new installation: See Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals – Pigs, Third Edition, 23.
  • 4. The current permitted dimensions of farrowing crates are 2 metres by 0.5 metres for new installation: See Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals – Pigs, Third Edition, 23.
  • 5. Animal Welfare Ordinance 1988:539 (Sweden), 1 January 2009, section 14: “Pigs shall be housed in lounging barns.” The provision also prohibits the use of farrowing crates.