Lesniak: Christie veto of pig confinement bill was a nod toward Iowa

TRENTON – The primary sponsor of a vetoed bill that would have banned confinement of gestating pigs in crates accused the governor of playing to the voters in Iowa.

Sen. Ray Lesniak, (D-20), Union, whose legislation drew an absolute veto in June, said today that Gov. Chris Christie rejected a bill that had large bipartisan support for one reason: The National Pork Board is headquartered in Iowa, where the first GOP presidential caucus will be held.

S1921/A3250, which passed the Senate 29-4 and the Assembly 60-5-11 (The abstentions were all Republicans), would have banned the practice of penning pigs in cages that are roughly 2-by-7 enclosures that immobilize them during pregnancies.

The Humane Society said it is launching a $150,000 TV ad campaign to draw attention to the issue, and Lesniak said he is confident legislative leaders will post the bill for an override vote at a later time.

“Animals are God’s creations,’’ Lesniak said. The confinement practice has been repudiated by nine states and the European Union, and although industrial breeders are not practicing such confinement in New Jersey, the legislation would have sent a signal to such companies they are not welcome here if they decide to relocate from other states that have banned the practice.

Lesniak said that since the bill passed with such an overwhelming majority, and since roughly 90 percent of polled residents support the ban, he believes the only reason Christie turned back the bill is to curry favor with Republican voters in Iowa. It is widely speculated that Christie will pursue a presidential bid.

Christie spokespeople could not be reached immediately for reaction.

But in his veto message, Christie recognized that “The proper balancing of the humane treatment of gestating pigs with the interests of farmers whose livelihood depends on their ability to properly manage their livestock best rests with the State’s farming experts – the State Board and the Department.

“I have every confidence that the State Board and the Department will continue to closely monitor and study modern and appropriate techniques for the humane raising, keeping, care, and treatment of all domestic livestock, and will propose amended regulations if, and when, modern science and evidence demonstrates a need for modified agricultural practices.”

According to the Humane Society, the ASPCA, and the Farm Sanctuary, more companies are recognizing the cruelty of the practice.

Two large crate users have pledged to phase them out, and companies such as McDonald’s and Costco have said they will not accept product from producers that confine pigs, according to Bruce Friedrich, senior director for strategic initiatives with Farm Sanctuary.

“There is no more abusive practice than confinement of gestating sows,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, during a tele-conference today.

He and others described the practice as essentially rendering pigs immobile – able to turn no more than a half step forward or back – during pregnancies.

“It is like one of us being put in a closet barely larger than our bodies and left there,’’ he said.

It is a management tool allowing a company to confine more pigs in less space without regard to the fact they essentially live their lives in a box while going through multiple pregnancies, the activists said.

Lesniak said the bill had exceptions for slaughter, exhibition, education, and other uses.

Lesniak: Christie veto of pig confinement bill was a nod toward Iowa