BREAKING NEWS: Canada Moves to Ban Confinement of Pigs in Cruel Gestation Crates

Today, history was made for Canadian pigs with the agricultural industry committing to a national ban on gestation crates, mutilations without painkillers, and some of the worst forms of “euthanasia.” These horrific practices were exposed by Mercy For Animals Canada in a groundbreaking investigation into a Canadian pig factory farm in 2012.

The new guidelines from the National Farm Animal Care Council require all new or renovated facilities after July 1, 2014 to house pigs in groups rather than cruel gestation crates, which prevent pregnant pigs from turning around or lying down comfortably for nearly their entire lives. Gestation crates have been widely condemned as one of the cruelest factory farming practices in the world. The group housing must provide sows with separate space for eating, sleeping, and eliminating. By July 1, 2024, even existing facilities should have transitioned away from crates.

The new Code of Practice also acknowledges that castration is painful regardless of age, and recommends the use of painkillers before and after the procedure. The Code of Practice requires that after July 1, 2016, castration and tail docking at any age be performed with painkillers. Currently, piglets in Canada have their testicles ripped out and their tails cut off without any pain relief, a practice exposed and sharply criticized by Mercy For Animals Canada for causing acute and chronic pain and suffering.

In 2012, Mercy For Animals Canada released hidden-camera video from an undercover investigation at Puratone, a major Canadian pork producer, showing thousands of pregnant pigs crammed into filthy, metal gestation crates barely larger than their own bodies; piglets having their testicles ripped out of their bodies and tails cut off without pain killers; and piglets being slammed headfirst into the ground. The shocking exposé received national media attention and prompted tens of thousands of Canadians to demand that the nation’s grocery retailers cut ties with pork producers that use gestation crates. In response, the Retail Council of Canada and its member grocers, Co-op Atlantic, Canada Safeway, Costco Wholesale Canada, Federated Co-operatives Limited, Loblaw Companies Limited, Metro Inc., Sobeys Inc., and Walmart Canada Corp., agreed to phase out inherently cruel gestation crates in their pork supply chains.


“This is an important step forward in preventing horrific cruelty to farmed animals in Canada. We are pleased that the new Code recognizes the inherent cruelty in confining social and intelligent animals for life in metal boxes barely larger than their own bodies,” said Twyla Francois, MFA Canada’s director of investigations. “This ban on gestation crates affirms what we have said all along–all animals should be given the freedom to move. We hope the Council extends this same consideration to other animals, including egg-laying hens, who are currently crammed in cages so small they can’t even spread their wings, and calves raised for veal, who are confined to barren wooden crates barely larger than their own bodies.”

Although the NFACC guidelines are not law, they are a powerful indicator of what law enforcement and courts will consider to be acceptable behaviour under both provincial welfare statutes and the Criminal Code. Generally accepted agricultural practices are exempt from provincial welfare laws, so the Code of Practice’s bans on the above indicate that they will not be considered generally accepted and therefore will run afoul of the law. And the Criminal Code prohibits causing unnecessary pain and suffering, which necessitates looking at both the purpose and the means by which the suffering was caused – if the means are not acceptable, inflicting the suffering is illegal.

The new guidelines from the National Farm Animal Care Council are a response to a public that increasingly refuses to tolerate cruelty to farmed animals. However, the industry has dragged its feet in creating even these common sense bans, and cannot be trusted to ensure the welfare of animals without meaningful oversight. As Mercy For Animals Canada’s exposés have demonstrated, the industry is incapable of self-regulating.

Mercy for Animals Canada will continue to act as the eyes and ears of the public and ensure that factory farmers are held accountable for how they treat farmed animals.

The only sure way to take animal suffering off our plates is by adopting a compassionate vegan diet. Visit to learn how.