By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block
After a hard-fought campaign lasting over a decade, New Jersey has passed a law prohibiting the cruel confinement of mother pigs in gestation crates and baby calves in veal crates. Gov. Phil Murphy signed the bill—which the state’s legislature passed earlier this month—on Wednesday, July 26, and it’s another milestone in our campaign to eliminate the cruel caging of farm animals.
New Jersey is the 15th state to ban gestation crates, veal crates and/or cages for egg-laying hens, joining a host of states, red and blue, taking a stand against inhumane farming practices, which shows that the fight against animal cruelty transcends political boundaries.
Gestation crates immobilize mother pigs for nearly their entire lives. The crates are so small mother pigs can’t even turn around or take more than a step forward or backward. Because of this lack of movement, they suffer muscle and bone deterioration that often leads to debilitating injuries, not to mention the severe psychological toll. Veal crates are no better. Within days or even hours of birth, some calves raised for veal are taken away from their mothers and locked in these crates, which are so tiny the animals can barely move.
Public health experts meanwhile say that this extreme confinement promotes the spread and mutation of dangerous pathogens, threatening human health via increased food safety risks and disease outbreaks that can jump the species barrier.
The Humane Society of the United States and the Animal Legal Defense Fund came together with more than 60 businesses, environmental and animal protection groups to win passage of this legislation. Our work to ban gestation crates in New Jersey first captured national media headlines nearly a decade ago. That this measure has finally become law demonstrates that we are steadfast and determined in our fight to end cruelty.
We are grateful to bill sponsors, Sen. Vin Gopal, and Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, along with former Sen. Ray Lesniak, all of whom have championed this critical legislation for years. We were heartened by the decision of the New Jersey Farm Bureau to support the most recent version of the bill, a sign of understanding that popular opinion has turned: More and more people want farm animals to be treated with basic decency.
This victory in New Jersey provides further evidence that the future for farm animals is crate- and cage-free. Notwithstanding, extreme outliers in the industrial pork industry have pressured Congress to pass the “Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression (EATS) Act, S. 2619/H.R. 4999. This bill could wipe out a host of animal welfare laws and nullify environmental and public health protections, along with state and local laws covering other concerns. You can fight this extreme bill by urging your federal legislators to oppose its inclusion, or anything at all like the EATS Act, in the Farm Bill.
Just as we fought successfully to outlaw crates in New Jersey and other states, you can be certain we’ll fight to defeat the EATS Act with everything we have.
Kitty Block is CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.