Following an appeal from PETA India to prohibit the manufacture, sale, and use of gestation and farrowing crates in pig farming, the director of animal husbandry and veterinary department, Government of Assam, has issued a circular to joint directors and animal husbandry and veterinary officers of all districts, mandating compliance with the group’s request within their jurisdictions.
The circular cites Section 11(1)(e) of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, which prohibits the confinement of any animal in a receptacle that fails to offer a reasonable opportunity for movement, such as gestation and farrowing crates. It also underlines the problematic restriction of mother pigs and their piglets within these metallic crates, which leaves the mother unable to turn around or even stand up without difficulty. Per the circular, the crates also force pigs to live amid their own faeces and urine, resulting in body sores and infections.
Confining animals in this way is illegal, a position confirmed by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research’s National Research Centre on Pig and is further reiterated in the said circular. Assam, home to the highest population of pigs in the country, is the latest of 20 states and union territories to issue directions against the housing of pigs in these contraptions. Other governments that have issued circulars include ‘ Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Goa, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Telangana, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal.
Gestation crates (aka “sow stalls”) are metal cages, essentially the size of a pig, with concrete or slatted floors. In them, pigs are unable to turn around or even stand up without difficulty. These devices confine pregnant pigs, who are typically transferred to farrowing crates to give birth and are kept in them until their piglets are taken away. Farrowing crates are fundamentally the same as gestation crates, except that they contain small side compartments for piglets.
Gestation and farrowing crates deny mother pigs everything that’s natural and important to them, such as opportunities to forage, build a nest for their young, socialise with other pigs, and regulate their body temperature (such as by wallowing in mud). The extreme stress and frustration caused by this severe confinement results in abnormal behaviour, such as continually biting at the enclosure bars or “chewing” the air.