“I won’t eat veal,” you might say. “Those tiny cages they keep the baby cows in are just too cruel, and I won’t be a part of it.” That’s a very noble stance, and we aren’t here to judge whether you eat veal or not. But you might be surprised to know that baby cows aren’t the only animals rendered immobile by tiny cages. Pregnant pigs on livestock farms are commonly confined in small pens called gestation stalls or “sow stalls,” which keep them from so much as turning around throughout their pregnancies. It may be common, but it’s also controversial – the European Union is phasing usage out by 2013, with some countries already having issued a full ban. The crates have also been banned in three states, but are still legal nationwide. But some are making a conscious choice to avoid them nonetheless.
It’s already a busy couple of months for McDonald’s – no more ammonium hydroxide, and a change in egg suppliers following animal cruelty videos. The franchise is following all that up with a pledge to work toward ending gestational stall use. According to an official McDonald’s press release, the franchise plans to require its domestic pork suppliers to “outline their plans to phase out the use of sow gestational stalls.”
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“McDonald’s believes gestation stalls are not a sustainable production system for the future. There are alternatives that we think are better for the welfare of sows,” stated Dan Gorsky, senior vice president of McDonald’s North America Supply Chain Management, in the press release. “McDonald’s wants to see the end of sow confinement in gestation stalls in our supply chain. We are beginning an assessment with our U.S. suppliers to determine how to build on the work already underway to reach that goal. In May, after receiving our suppliers’ plans, we’ll share results from the assessment and our next steps.”
McDonald’s plan has the approval of the Humane Society, but still it seems a little vague – between outlining and planning and phasing out, we wonder when real change for pork supplier practices will take concrete effect. With that said, any move toward more sustainable practices is a step in the right direction. We just hope it makes the leap from plans to reality sooner rather than later.