A vote by Calgary Co-op members on Wednesday set the chain on the path to becoming the first major grocer in Canada to phase out eggs and pork produced from pigs and chickens kept in confinement cages.
Members present at the general meeting voted in favour of phasing out, over the span of five years, the sale of eggs and pork produced from animals kept in those conditions.
Approximately 90 members voted in favour and 40 against the proposal brought forward by Co-op member Clint Robertson. However, the motion won't be implemented until it's approved by the board of directors.
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In an industrial egg-producing facility, about half of the chicks will be male and would grow up to be roosters, which do not lay eggs and therefore provide no incentive for the breeder to preserve. Most of the male chicks are usually killed shortly after being sexed.
A typical cage is about the size of a filing cabinet drawer and holds eight to 10 hens.
The young piglets stay with their mothers for two to three weeks, after which their teeth are clipped, tails cut and the males are castrated – all without anaesthetic, according to the Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals. "The piglets are taken away to be fattened in nursery pens on concrete floors, then to “grower” pens, and finally to “finisher” pens until they reach slaughter weight of 250 pounds at six months old," the CCFA adds.
The CCFA says pigs may be legally transported in Canada without water, food or rest, for 36 hours. Photo: Pigs from Manitoba destined for Mexico died enroute in Texas after being left for days in a transport trailer without water in temperatures of over 90 degrees Farenheit.
The Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals estimates that 98 per cent of Canada's 26 million egg-laying hens are kept in small, crammed "battery cages." Pictured here is a feces-covered hen at an Ontario egg farm.
Each bird has less space than a sheet of notebook paper, according to the Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals.
Unlike free range hens pictured here, hens in cages are not able to perform natural behaviours such as nesting, perching, dust-bathing and stretching a wing or walking around.
Out of the 30 million pigs produced every year in Canada for slaughter, most are born to sows who are kept in two-feet-wide metal gestation crates, where they are unable to even turn around during their four-month pregnancy, says the Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals.
The European Union banned battery cages as of January 1, 2012. Photo: Former battery hens roost in the barn of their new home.
Early battery cages were often used for selecting hens based on performance since it is easy to track how many eggs each hen is laying if only one hen is placed in a cage. Later, this was combined with artificial insemination, giving a technique where each egg's parentage is known. This method is still used today.
The passage of California Proposition 2 in 2008 aimed to reduce or eliminate problems associated with battery cages. A standard for space relative to free movement and wingspan was set, rather than cage size.
Spatial restriction can lead to a wide range of abnormal behaviours, some of which are injurious to the hens or their cagemates.
Being indoors, hens in battery cages do not see sunlight. While there is no scientific evidence for this being a welfare problem, some animal advocates indicate it is a concern.
According to World's Poultry Science Journal, flocks are sometimes force molted, rather than being slaughtered, to reinvigorate egg-laying. This involves complete withdrawal of food (and sometimes water) for 7 to 14 days or sufficiently long to cause a body weight loss of 25 to 35%
Roberston, who saw the vote as a victory, took to Twitter after members approved the motion.
"A success today! Coop members voted to phase out caged eggs/pork within 5 years (instead of 3)," he said, adding that the Calgary Co-op will be the first major Canadian grocer to do so.
A success today! Coop members voted to phase out caged eggs/pork within 5 years (instead of 3) Will be first major Canadian grocer to do so— Clint Robertson (@ClintRobertson_) March 14, 2013
"We have zero tolerance for animal abuse," said Cindy Drummond, Manager of Communications at the Calgary Co-op.
Co-op does offers a selection of free-range choices, she said, and Co-op encourages consumers to be informed.
As pressure builds on the food industry to change the hen housing practice and "as industry standards change, there will be a greater selection on our shelf," she said.
Roberston encouraged people on Twitter who approve the decision to write to Co-op sharing their support.
Also on HuffPost:
@GlobalCalgary I am delighted by this move by Calgary Co-op. people can make a difference, one step at a time.
This is a start, but hope to get all meat and dairy goods off shelves. Eating animal itself is animal cruelty. http://t.co/FVD79re1t8
This is awesome - such a positive move. I hope the board of directors sees this as an opportunity to move... http://t.co/yiaCIr0Vm3
Good to see Calgary Co-op showing some leadership. Want to see them go so much farther http://t.co/UKfwwxIYow
Good news for Canada! (and chickens and pigs >3) http://t.co/yAXa83Pzxn
Awesome move by Co-op. "@calgaryherald: Co-op vote will buoy naturally-raised meats http://t.co/rDiLgkzmrm"
This would make me shop @Co-op. Once their producers make the changes,all stores will do the same & EVERYONE benefits http://t.co/SjdwPBzG71
Heather K Mak
calgary co-op says it's moving towards no battery cages/sow stalls in 5 yrs. how will industry infrastructure adapt? http://t.co/naZPVoQKLt
It's a start, I guess. RT @PBortolussiCDN: @HuffPostCanada: First major Canadian grocer to make this landmark move http://t.co/lyCgxemSIZ
Van. Humane Society
RT @MFACanada: Please take a moment to thank @CalgaryCoop for adopting #cagefree policy. read more http://t.co/JUD0z3JcXK #calgary #animalwelfare #grocery
If the rumour is true & Calgary co-op does switch to ethical , that's great! Hopefully they'll keep moving forward in cruelty-free direction
Kevin D Brown
@PaulyHughes #CdnPoli Wow! Amazing! Kudos to Clint Robertson indeed, and Calgary Co-op for supporting animal - our - health. #smallfarms