Free Pigs From the Abusive Crates
By Bill Maher Oct. 17, 2014
WOULD you cram a dog into a crate for her entire life, never letting her out, until you took her to the pound to kill her?
Of course you wouldn’t, and yet that’s effectively what happens to most mother pigs in this country. They spend their lives in what are called gestation crates, tiny stalls that house pregnant sows. They cannot even turn around, and are immobilized in these crates until they are taken to the slaughterhouse.
Pigs are smart animals — the brainiacs of the barnyard, basically. They have outperformed dogs on tests of behavioral and cognitive sophistication. In fact, they learn rudimentary video games as quickly as chimpanzees, one of our closest living relatives.
The primatologist Jane Goodall writes that “farm animals feel pleasure and sadness, excitement and resentment, depression, fear and pain. They are far more aware and intelligent than we ever imagined ... they are individuals in their own right.”
But when abnormally enclosed, their muscles and bones waste away, and they go insane from boredom. Just as you would if you couldn’t move.
Fortunately, we’re seeing changes. Animal protection organizations are putting pressure on corporations to change, and so we’re seeing policies to get rid of these crates from the likes of McDonald’s, Burger King and Smithfield Foods.
We’ve also seen bills or initiatives passed in nine states that require that all pigs be given at least enough space to turn around.
It’s a modest improvement, but the pork producers are fighting it. A spokesman for the National Pork Producers Council actually said to a reporter for National Journal, “I don’t know who asked the sow if she wanted to turn around.” (The council later issued a statement regretting the comment.)
These laws are bipartisan: California passed a ban on crates, not surprisingly, but so did the more conservative states of Florida and Arizona.
New Jersey would be the 10th. A poll conducted last month by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research found that 93 percent of New Jersey voters wanted to see these crates banned — including 94 percent of Democrats and independents, and 92 percent of Republicans. Both chambers of the State Legislature have now passed it. What could go wrong?
Unfortunately, we’ve seen this movie before. A year ago, Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a similar bill that had passed the Assembly and Senate by huge bipartisan majorities — 60 to 5 in the Assembly and 29 to 4 in the Senate.
Governor Christie claimed to be vetoing the bill based on merits, but I cannot imagine that he thinks it’s O.K. to confine pigs in their own waste, immobile, for years at a time.
There must be more to it. Could it be that a possible presidential candidate is aware that Iowa is the No. 1 pig state in the country, and that Republican primary voters there are strongly anti-regulation?
It is no more acceptable to abuse a pig than it would be to abuse a dog, which is illegal. These crates should already be illegal under the New Jersey animal welfare laws, but since they aren’t, Mr. Christie should sign the bill this time. It would hardly put pigs into luxurious settings. It doesn’t force pig producers to choose a specific kind of housing; it merely says the animals have to be allowed to turn around, lie down, stand up and fully extend their limbs.
When Governor Christie vetoed the bill, he said he was concerned that it bypassed the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, so the bill’s sponsors changed it so that it works through that department. So Mr. Christie really has no excuse to veto it again.
I have been involved in the animal rights cause for decades, and nothing makes me angrier than cramming animals into environments where they can’t move.
We should not play politics with animals’ lives. Banning crates in my native state of New Jersey is the right thing to do.
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