April 5, 2018
Dr. Yolande Seddon
NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Swine Welfare
Dear Dr. Seddon,
RE: Emerging Issues in Swine Welfare
I am writing to you on behalf of Hog Watch Manitoba which is a non-profit organization, a coalition of environmentalists, farmers, friends of animals, social justice advocates and scientists. Our goal is to promote an alternative method of raising pigs that is ethically, environmentally and economically sustainable.
We understand that NSERC is launching a Swine Welfare Research program of which you are the Chair and we thought it would be helpful to communicate with you. Our group represents many rural folks who live near hog barns and have experienced the negative consequences of toxic odours emanating from the barns, manure lagoons and manure spreading. Many of these concerns could be diminished greatly by a significant change in the housing of the animals which would also improve the welfare of the animals. We are referring to the current system of housing the pigs on slatted floors above pits containing their urine and feces.
The current industrial model of housing pigs in closed barns above pits containing their waste is injurious to the animals’ welfare due to the toxic fumes of hydrogen sulfide along with methane, ammonia and carbon dioxide that rise from the manure pits. In Manitoba there have been several instances of entire barns of pigs suffocating when the ventilation system fails. The most recent incident killed 1500 pigs in a barn near Lone Spruce, Manitoba this past winter.
Hog Watch Manitoba is promoting a straw based housing system for the pigs which would allow them to fulfill their instinctual needs for rooting and nest building. The current industrial system in which they have no straw or other bedding material prevents them from rooting and this inability to do what instinct drives them to do, causes chronic stress.
The hog industry is facing increasing pressure to eliminate the use of sub-therapeutic antibiotics due to concerns re: antibiotic resistant bacteria. This adds weight to the need to improve overall welfare of the animals in their day to day living situation in order to decrease chronic stress. Providing straw for rooting and nest building would add greatly to the overall quality of life for the animals.
There are several additional benefits to switching to a straw based housing for the pigs. These include; decreased odour problems for neighbours and decreased threat of excess phosphorus and nitrogen from manure applications running off fields into nearby waterways as composted manure will be less mobile.
In conclusion we hope that you will give serious consideration to researching the benefits of housing pigs on straw rather than slatted floors.
Vicki Burns and Janine Gibson
Hog Watch Manitoba Steering Committee