As the debate about the benefits of gestation stalls vs. pens continues to be waged, it seems there is always another news story taking a look at this topic from yet another angle. This week was no exception. The story I found most interesting was on the U.S. Agricultural & Food Law and Policy Blog.  The story provides details about a Florida court ruling in favor of a former pork producer who was forced out of business when the state passed a constitutional amendment prohibiting the use of gestation stalls.
Plaintiff Stephen Basford used gestation stalls in his recently renovated operation at the time the amendment was passed. According to the evidence provided at the trial, he had to shut down his operation because he was “unable to afford an estimated $600,000 in costs needed to stop using gestation stalls.” Other buildings and equipment on his farm were also unable to be used due to the “functionally integrated nature of his business,” he testified. He was awarded $505,000 plus interest, by the court, calculated based on the inability to use improvements previously made to his facilities after the amendment went into effect. It will be interesting to see if this court decision has ripple effects elsewhere.
Another story this week announces that Smithfield Foods  has produced a video explaining how sows are raised in group housing systems on company-owned farms. In 2007, Smithfield announced a goal of phasing out individual gestation stalls and converting to group housing on the company’s sow farms by 2017. A news release from Smithfield says when the conversion is complete in 2017, it will have cost the company an estimated $300 million. The new videos include actual footage from the sow farms so consumers can see how pigs are raised in group housing systems.
Because National Hog Farmer  is committed to providing our readers with research-based information, it seems only fitting to draw your attention to another gestation-stall-related article entitled, “What does Science Say About Stalls vs. Pens? ” The Prairie Swine Centre has assembled a report compiling and comparing study results focused on the welfare benefits of stalls vs. group housing for gestating sows. There are clearly welfare advantages and disadvantages to housing sows in both stalls and groups. According to the Prairie Swine Centre, the main advantages of stalls relate to their ability to provide individual nutrition and care to sows, and the elimination of injuries associated with aggression when sows are mixed. The advantages of group housing are that sows receive more exercise and have the opportunity to perform a range of behaviors.
Do you have any thoughts on the three articles listed above? Do you have any news and views to add to the mix? Leave your stories or thoughts in the “comments” section below, or email [email protected] .
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