Update on the Animal Legal Defense Fund Farrowing Crate Lawsuit

Four years ago, the Animal Legal Defense Fund sued the California State Exposition and Fairs (Cal Expo) and the University of California Board of Regents for mistreating pregnant and nursing pigs at the California State Fair. Historically the fair’s Livestock Nursery Exhibit featured mother pigs kept in tiny “farrowing crates” for three weeks every year. The courts dismissed the lawsuit on procedural grounds, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund refiled the lawsuit in 2017 which quickly settled. But the lawsuits had an effect. Since the filing of the lawsuit, the fair has not hosted the exhibit. In a March 1 letter sent to Animal Legal Defense Fund attorneys pursuant to the settlement, the CEO of the state fair stated that the upcoming 2018 fair would once again not include the cruel display.

Gestation Crates and Farrowing Crates = Cruel Confinement

While a growing number of people are familiar with the term “gestation crate,” farrowing crates are less well known. These crates are used for mother pigs who have recently given birth and are essentially the same as gestation crates with a small barred area attached to the side for piglets. Like gestation crates, pigs in farrowing crates are unable to walk, turn around, or even stand comfortably. Pigs in the late stages of pregnancy were purposefully transported to the fair so that they would give birth and then nurse the piglets afterward. While giving birth near strange people would be stressful for any animal, a pig’s instinct is to nurse in isolation – an impossibility when they’re trapped in crates only a few feet away from onlookers.

A Violation of State Cruelty Laws

This type of intensive confinement violates California animal cruelty statutes. The law requires that confined animals be provided with an adequate exercise area. But the pigs in the exhibit were never let out for exercise. Pigs are highly intelligent animals – able to solve puzzles and form deep emotional bonds. Trapped in crates with no mental stimulation, many pigs resort to gnawing on bars or waving their heads repeatedly, indications of severe psychological distress.

Intensive confinement is also losing favor with the public. In 2008, California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 2 which required egg-laying hens, gestating pigs, and calves raised for veal have enough room to stand up and fully extend their limbs. The Animal Legal Defense Fund is a proud member of Prevent Cruelty California – a coalition working to place a measure on the 2018 California ballot that would enact crucial upgrades to Proposition 2. The new measure would require that pregnant pigs be able to move freely. Further, it prohibits the sale of pork produced using gestation crates by December 2021.

In light of changing public perception and potential new laws prohibiting the intensive confinement of farmed animals, it’s unlikely the exhibit will be missed.

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