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Scottish animal charity condemns ‘cruel’ use of farrowing crates on farms

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More than 5,500 letters have been written to Scottish Government calling on them to ban farrowing crates for pigs.

OneKind, an animal welfare charity in Scotland, has received 5,527 responses (as of June 7) to a letter calling on the Agriculture Minister Jim Fairlie to consult on a phase out of farrowing crates for sows.

Farmers have been urged to move to cage-free methods to stop the ‘significant suffering’ to sows inside ‘extremely confining’ crates, the charity said.

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According to OneKind, Scottish Government has not released details to phase out farrowing crates for pigs, despite a commitment to consult on a phase out to farrowing crates in their 2021-2022 Programme for Government. 

Bob Elliot, director of the charity, said: “Throughout the UK, mother pigs are routinely confined to cages that are barely bigger than their own bodies for up to five weeks.  

“Such deprivation should not be tolerated in the 21st century.

“The Scottish Government must uphold its previous commitment to consult on a phase out to farrowing crates in Scotland.” 

Christine Grahame, former deputy presiding officer of Scottish Parliament who lodged a bid to phase out farrowing crates earlier this year, said the practice was ‘cruel’.

“I had the chance to view a farrowing crate when OneKind held an exhibition in Parliament earlier this year and it made that fact plainly obvious,” she added.

“When standing inside a life-sized model of such a crate and seeing for myself how painfully restrictive they are, it reinforced my commitment to seeing this practice banned.

“A pregnant sow can be trapped in one of these crates for five weeks or more, unable to turn around and with barely enough room to stand up.

“It also prevents her from engaging with and nursing her piglets naturally, forcing them to suckle through metal bars.   

“There is no place for this practice in modern Scotland and I fully support a ban.

“The use of farrowing crates for pigs is cruel.”

Colin Smyth, a Scottish Labour candidate for the South Scotland region had shared the concerns of OneKind over the use of farrowing crates.

“Alternatives, many of them designed by British farmers and engineers, are already commercially available within the UK, so there is an opportunity to support  British businesses but also crucially pig welfare by moving to the use of higher-welfare systems,” he added.

“I am very mindful of the enormous challenges facing pig producers at this time, so it will be important to work with the industry on any proposed ban.

“One of the reasons I sought to amend the Agriculture Bill currently going through the Scottish Parliament was to include improving animal welfare as a key objective of future agricultural support.

“This was to ensure that when welfare improvements are proposed, we provide support to farmers and crofters to deliver those changes.

“It will also be vital for the next UK Government to put animal welfare at the heart of trade deals, something that is missing at present.

“It undermines the implementation of higher animal welfare standards here, if we just export suffering elsewhere and Government continues to allow the import of products with lower welfare standards than we have in the UK.”

The Scottish Government has responded to the petition and insists it is committed to ensuring high standards of welfare for all animals in Scotland.

“We recently published our is Guidance for the Welfare for Pigs which is intended to help all those that care and are responsible for farmed pigs to ensure that their needs are met as required by good practise,” the spokesperson added.

“We have also update the welfare of Farmed Animals (Scotland) Regulations 2010 to include this updated pigs’ welfare guidance.

“Those responsible for farmed pigs must be acquainted with, and have access to this guidance. 

“We will continue to listen and work with both the industry and other stakeholders to achieve improvements in animal welfare.”

You can view the stand up for pigs campaign here.

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