TRENTON – The state Senate approved a bill on Monday sponsored by Senator Raymond J. Lesniak that would prohibit the use of “gestation crates” for pigs.
“We have to recognize that if our society values such things as justice, fairness and compassion, then we have a societal responsibility to apply those conditions across the board,” said Lesniak, D-Union. “If we are serious about fostering a moral and ethical society, we have to be concerned not just with cruelty and injustice perpetrated by humans against humans, but also cruelty and injustice perpetrated by humans against the animal kingdom.”
The bill, S-1921, would establish an animal cruelty offense of cruel confinement of a gestating pig as a disorderly persons offense. The bill would define cruel confinement as crating, confining or tethering a gestating sow in order to prevent the free range of motion. Under the bill, a violator would be guilty of a disorderly persons offense, punishable by a fine of between $250 and $1,000 and up to six months imprisonment – and each gestating sow that is cruelly confined would be considered a separate offense. The bill would also subject violators to an additional civil penalty of between $250 and $1,000 to be recovered in the name of the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or a county society for the prevention of animal cruelty.
The bill would create exemptions for medical research, veterinary examination or treatment, transportation, education or exhibition, animal husbandry, humane slaughter, or the proper care of the animal during the seven-day period prior to the expected date of the animal giving birth.
The “gestation crate” or sow stall, is a small metal enclosure used in intensive pig farming, in which female breeding pigs are enclosed in a space so small as to prohibit the pig from turning around or lying down comfortably. Shortly after giving birth, the piglets are taken away and the sow is re-impregnated to start the whole process over again. Pork producers argue that the crates are necessary because sows that are housed together in pens will fight – but opponents note that immobilizing animals in crates increases the animals’ stress levels, and can cause other health problems.
“The practice of using gestation crates results in overcrowding and inhumane treatment of these animals,” said Lesniak. “There are certainly other, more humane options to allow pregnant pigs to maintain free range of motion while still separating animals which may be prone to aggression during their pregnancies. This bill calls on pig farmers in New Jersey to adopt more humane alternatives to ‘gestation crates’ which satisfy the need to keep animals separated while avoiding undue stress on the animals.”
The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 29-4. It now heads to the governor’s desk.
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