Fall Animal Law Blog Post

By Lenny Cohen

Last year, in the midst of swirling political rumors, Chris Christie was taking major hits to his potential Presidential campaign. On the one hand, he and his administration were facing criticism over the scandal known as “Bridgegate,” where it was rumored that Christie had lanes on the George Washington Bridge closed as retribution for a political matter.

At the same, animal rights activists in New Jersey and across the country were angry with Christie for a different reason. The Governor had recently vetoed a bill that would have effectively placed a ban on the use of gestation crates on pigs in the state. Gestation crates are yet another tool used by the factory farming industry that have animal rights activists up in arms. The crates are used as housing for pregnant pigs, or sows, and often measure six feet by 2 feet. As you can imagine, the crates are extremely small for a full-grown pig and are a far cry from the picturesque image of pigs rolling around happily in mud. A few states, including Florida, Arizona, and California have banned the use of gestation crates entirely. Several other states currently have legislation before them that would outlaw or severely limit the use of crates.

In a 2013 survey, ninety percent of New Jersey residents indicated they were in favor of banning the crates. So, why does New Jersey, with a total pig population of about 9,000 need to keep gestation crates in use?  The answer is more political than one may initially realize. It seems that Governor Christie’s Presidential hopes were highly influential on his veto. As a December, 2014 New York Times article by Mark Bittman explains, “There are [sic] 65 million pigs in the United States, over 20 million of them in Iowa (where crates are standard practice), which is clearly what Christie has in mind: a candidate who supports the status quo on agriculture in Iowa, where the hog industry is worth $7 billion, has it far easier than one who wants to shake things up.” New Jersey residents should be highly disturbed that their Governor is willing to sacrifice ethics for votes.

While it is not clear whether Christie will approve the bill after his Presidential run is over, it is clear that gestation crates are being widely phased out across the country. Major manufacturers and retailers have vowed to not buy or sell pork that has come from a farm using gestation crates. Among them, major fast-food chains like McDonalds, Burger King, and Wendy’s have all made the pledge.

As a nation, we certainly have to take stock of our mass consumption of meat and other agricultural products. The humane and ethical treatment of animals should be a consideration of all voters, and I can only hope Governor Christie feels the wrath of his decision in the polls.

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