Animal welfare organizations are joining forces to urge New Jersey lawmakers to override a veto of a bill that would improve the living conditions for pregnant pigs in the state.
Earlier this spring, lawmakers voted overwhelmingly with bipartisan support to pass a bill that would have made it an act of animal cruelty to house pregnant sows in gestation crates, or “in a manner that prevents the animal from being able to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, or fully extend its limbs.”
Millions of sows in the U.S. are currently kept in what are commonly known as gestation crates, or sow stalls, for most of their lives while they go through the process of being repeatedly impregnated. After they give birth, they’re moved to farrowing crates where they’re separated from their babies by bars. This type of intensive confinement is considered to be one of the worst forms of cruelty inflicted on animals in modern day farming.
For pigs, there’s no shortage of evidence to suggest that they are incredibly intelligent, social and sensitive animals with cognitive abilities that can potentially surpass those of three-year-old humans. When provided with a natural environment, they are are devoted, protective and nurturing mothers. Scientific studies have also shown that confining them in this manner, thereby taking away their ability to engage in any type of natural behaviors and leaving them with no enrichment, causes both physical and psychological disorders. Unfortunately, producers continue to defend this system because it saves space and keeps costs down.
Despite support from animal advocacy groups, 100 state veterinarians, many lawmakers and 91 percent of New Jersey voters, Governor Christie vetoed the bill earlier this summer and said in his statement that it was the responsibility of New Jersey’s Board of Agriculture and Department of Agriculture to establish “the proper balancing of humane treatment of gestating pigs with the interests of farmers whose livelihood depends on their ability to properly manage their livestock.”
Now a coalition of state and national animal welfare organizations are pushing back and continuing the fight to help pigs by urging lawmakers to finish the job they started by overriding the veto, something that’s never been done in the state. They’ll need a two-thirds majority vote to successfully pull it off, according to the Star Ledger. The HSUS is sponsoring an ad campaign that will be airing on television to raise awareness among residents.
“It’s simply unacceptable to confine pregnant pigs so tightly that they can’t even turn around, and we look forward to working with all of the compassionate New Jersey legislators who voted to outlaw the practice the first time to see their will, and the will of New Jersey voters, realized,” said Bruce Friedrich, senior advocacy director for Farm Sanctuary, in a statement.
Nine states have already successfully passed legislation banning gestation crates, and a number of major food companies are working towards phasing them out of their supply chains. Continued consumer support for ending the use of gestation crates can help keep the momentum going.
Photo credit: Thinkstock
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