Following an appeal by PETA India to prohibit the manufacture, sale, and use of gestation and farrowing crates in pig farming, the State Animal Welfare Board of Odisha has circulated an order instructing the chief district veterinary officers of the state to ensure that no pig farms are using these restrictive crates within their jurisdictions. Per the order, penal action must be taken against any pig farm using these crates via an action-taken report submitted to the director of animal husbandry and veterinary services cum member secretary of the State Animal Welfare Board of Odisha. The circular cites section 11(1)(e) of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, which prohibits the confinement of any animal to a receptacle that fails to offer a reasonable opportunity for movement, such as gestation and farrowing crates.
Confining animals in this way is illegal, a position confirmed by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research’s National Research Centre on Pig, which is reiterated in the circular. Odisha is the latest of 21 states and union territories to issue directions against the housing of pigs in these contraptions. Other governments that have issued circulars include those of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, 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 sows, 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 result in abnormal behaviour, such as continually biting at the enclosure bars or “chewing” the air.
Pigs are intelligent animals and protective mothers who form bonds with their young when unrestricted. Their confinement to these cramped crates and the ultimate separation from their piglets cause them tremendous grief and agony.