Many people today look at farrowing crates in hog production as cruel and inhumane handling of swine during their most productive stages of life. Nine states have banned the use of farrowing crates, and many more states are pushing to ban the use of these crates in the coming years. The interesting thing about these nine states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, and Rhode Island) is they are not leading states in terms of pork production. We are seeing too often that states, and people, who have never stepped foot on a farm, are those that are trying to tell farmers what they need to be doing. Further, those that are telling farmers how to do their jobs are those that seem to be of highest concern for a starving world that we are living in.
Don’t Let the Media Mislead You
The media and celebrities alike are spreading the false belief that a sow spends her whole life in a farrowing crate, a metal containment for pigs giving birth, that allows her to lie down and safely feed her piglets. What many people don’t understand is that these hogs have been bred to live in these crates. As studies have shown, as long as you feed them, give them plenty of water, keep them comfortable and treat the sow with respect, they will produce. The image to the left is what will appear when you search wikipedia for “Gestation Crate.” This is exactly what the media wants you to believe gestation and farrowing crates are. Dirty, tightly squeezed crates that sows are forced to spend their whole life in.
So, why would anybody ever use a gestation crate? Gestation crates provide a safe haven for piglets so their mom can’t accidentally lie down on them and suffocate them. Sows can naturally be aggressive and vicious animals, so they are used to keep the sow from being overly stressed and fighting other hogs. If a sow were to get into a fight with another sow, they can become injured and tend to have a miscarriage. Let us also keep in mind that gestation crates are not used for the entire life cycle of these sows, they are only used during the gestation period. An injured sow translates into no babies.To the right, you will see the proper use of a gestation crate. The crate is roomy, clean, and keeps the piglets safe.
The Bottom Line
It’s incredibly frustrating to farmers who are trying to raise a family on the profits of their hog farm and have people who have never visited a farm in their life try to tell them how to do their job. We will always have people who believe that animal welfare is their number one priority, but what are they going to do when they are starving and pork prices are so high because they have outlawed the use of farrowing crates? I went to the Farm-Aid concert in Chicago this past year, and they had stands up trying to have people sign petitions to outlaw the use of these crates. They were spreading false “facts” about the crates, and no matter how many time I told them they were wrong and I wasn’t going to sign their petition, they kept pushing these falsified facts on myself and other people at the concert. Consumers need to be more educated about these crates, why they are put to use, and why we need to keep using them. Putting a hog that has never seen anything other than these crates is not cruel. What is cruel is putting a hog that has only known these crates to put them outside in a world they have never seen before and have them fend for themselves.
My name is Ethan Tock, and I am a junior at Western Illinois University. I grew up in Mahomet, Illinois with zero prior farm experience before moving to Williamsfield, Illinois in June of 2015. I am working towards my Ag Business degree while working for the family farm doing sales for our new line, Illini Brand Soybeans.