The Facts About Maternity Pens

What are maternity pens and why are they used?

HSUS Whistleblower

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What Vets & Farmers Say

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Listen to the Pigs

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Individual maternity pens (IMP) house sows during the most vulnerable duration of their pregnancy. IMPs protect sows from other animals. In group-housing situations, pregnant sows often fight for food and dominance, resulting in higher rates of injury to less dominant animals. Group housing was abandoned by much of the industry several decades ago at the advice of veterinarians and animal welfare advocates.

Research finds that stress hormone levels in sows are lower in pens than in group housing. Additionally, maternity pens provide for individual feeding and veterinary care.

The Facts

The Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are pressuring food retailers and restaurants to demand that their pork suppliers have a supply chain free of maternity pens (also called gestation stalls), which are used to safely house pregnant pigs.

While HSUS makes false claims about maternity pens, the facts tell a different story:

  1. 1

    Scientists and animal welfare groups disagree with HSUS. Both the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians contend that maternity pens provide for animal welfare.
  2. 2

    Polling conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation in 2013 found the majority of consumers either don't care about or disagree with HSUS's position on sow housing.
  3. 3

    Most pork suppliers are not switching and will not switch. The pork packers who have agreed to group housing only account for an estimated 15 percent of US pork production.
  4. 4

    Accommodating HSUS demands would significantly increase the cost of pork.

Who is more credible when it comes to farm animal welfare, farmers and veterinarians or animals rights activists?

* ORC International poll of 1,000 Americans January 2013.

European Union Experience

Experts predict that in the EU, which has just implemented a ban on maternity pens, pork production will fall 5 percent — and it could be much more.

Since the UK banned individual pens in 1999, its pork production costs have risen 12 percent and the country has experienced a 40 percent drop in supply. Similarly, Poland saw a 35 percent drop in sow numbers after a move away from these pens. After the EU banned hen cages last year, the price of eggs jumped 67 percent. It is conceivable that the market for pork could experience a similar price shock.

Over 200 large animal veterinarians have signed a statement disagreeing with HSUS's stance on individual maternity pen housing

maternity pen statement, page 1 maternity pen statement, page 1