A Free Market Is A Humane Market

Dave Killion — July 18, 2012


Know what a gestation crate is?

“A gestation crate, also known as a sow stall, is a 2 metres (6.6 ft) x 60 centimetres (2.0 ft) metal enclosure used in intensive pig farming, in which a female breeding pig (sow) may be kept during pregnancy, and in effect for most of her adult life.”

Between 60 and 70 percent of sows are kept in crates during pregnancy in the United States, each pregnancy lasting four months, with an average of 2.5 litters every year. Sows, which can weigh 600 pounds (270 kg), spend most of their three or four years of adult life in crates, giving birth to between five and eight litters. As the sows grow larger, they no longer fit in the crates, and must sleep on their chests, unable to turn, until they are slaughtered.”

Brutal. It’s difficult to read something like that and not think that these devices should be banned, and in some places they either have been, or will soon be –

“In the European Union, the crates are being phased out by 2013 after four weeks of pregnancy. They are already banned in Sweden and in the UK, and will be banned in Denmark in 2014.

In the US, they have been banned in Florida since 2002, Arizona since 2006 California since late 2008 and the latest being Rhode Island from June 2012, making it the 9th state in US to enforce the ban. They are also being phased out in Maine and Oregon.”

This is not the good news it appears to be. Banning gestation crates means higher pork prices, so unless consumers are demanding “gestation-crate-free” pork, retailers will have to find sources where there is no ban. That means pork might be brought in from places where animal welfare is an even lower priority. By resorting to coercive state power, well-intended people actually cause more suffering.

Happily, the market succeeds where government fails

“By the end of 2022, (Oscar Mayer) plans to obtain pork from suppliers who can provide pregnant sows with housing that “allows for greater movement for the animal, while ensuring their comfort,” instead of traditional stalls.

“We are committed to finding better ways to keep animals healthy and in a safe environment while treating them with respect,” Oscar Mayer spokeswoman Sydney Lindner said. “This is not only important to us, but also to our consumers who care about animal well-being and comfort.”

“Pork providers Smithfield and Hormel have pledged to stop using the confining gestation crates by 2017, and Cargill already is 50 percent crate-free, the organization said.”

For deep, sustainable, and far-reaching change, nothing beats free enterprise.


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