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Confinement, Outdoor Access, Space & Enrichment

The ASPCA believes that optimal farm animal welfare requires granting animals sufficient time in an outdoor environment that provides them with adequate space, enrichment, and protection from deleterious weather conditions, predators and disease. The conditions and amount of time outdoors must be tailored to the animals’ species, breed and region. When animals are indoors, they should be provided the highest possible welfare standards such as enrichment of the living environment, natural light, sufficient space for natural movement, and the ability to engage in other natural behaviors.

Sow Gestation and Farrowing Crates – Most industrial farms use intensive confinement such as farrowing crates and gestation crates. The ASPCA advocates the elimination of gestation crates in favor of alternatives that promote improved welfare, such as appropriately designed and managed group housing. The ASPCA also supports research into the development and implementation of alternatives to farrowing crates. As more humane options become available, the ASPCA encourages their use. In addition, all sow housing should provide for*: access to food and water, good air quality; proper sanitation; protection from environmental extremes; reduced exposure to hazards that result in injury, pain and disease; observation of individual sows; and normal patterns of behavior and movement.

Additionally, sows should have enough space to separate themselves from one another so as to minimize aggression, and should have plentiful and enriched access to the outdoors, as described above.

Veal Crates – The ASPCA opposes the use of veal crates, stalls or tethering which confine veal calves in enclosures so small they cannot turn around. Alternatives that provide adequate space to engage in natural behaviors and movement, promote social interaction and meet nutritional requirements that include forage should be employed. Veal calves should receive colostrum for their first 24 hours of life and should have access to the outdoors regularly, weather permitting, under conditions in line with those described above.

Housing For Egg-Laying Hens – The ASPCA advocates for hens to be raised out of cages. The hens should also have plentiful and enriched time outdoors, as described above. Hens should be raised in a high welfare environment that includes adequate food, water, light, air quality, space and sanitation, as well as enrichment that allows for the expression of natural behaviors such as nest boxes and perches. Furthermore, laying hens should be genetically suited to thrive in a high-welfare environment, as opposed to the standard battery cage.

Housing of Chickens Used for Meat (“Broiler Chickens”) – The ASPCA believes chickens used for meat should be bred to thrive and provided with high welfare conditions, including adequate space and enrichment and plentiful and enriched time outdoors, as described above. However, in the mean time, because the modern breed of broiler chicken is prone to musculoskeletal weakness and organ failure that might not allow the birds to thrive in otherwise high-welfare conditions, the birds’ housing needs must be considered in relation to their overall health. These housing needs include proper litter, lighting, enrichment, ventilation and space.

Housing of Cattle in Feedlots – The ASPCA opposes the use of feedlots to house and fatten cattle in the months prior to slaughter. Feedlots expose cattle to adverse weather elements, deprive them of pasture and forage and force them to eat foods that stress their digestive systems. Farmers should keep cattle on pasture, with sufficient space to graze comfortably, throughout their lives. The ASPCA recognizes that not all cattle live in a climate allowing them to graze year round. In such areas, cattle should winter with forage, rather than grain, throughout their lives.

*American Veterinary Medical Association, Pregnant Sow Housing, November, 2011 (accessed December 5, 2012); available from https://www.avma.org/KB/Policies/Pages/Pregnant-Sow-Housing.aspx.