New Jersey Governor Chris Christie won the praise of United States hog farmers and the National Pork Producers Council after vetoing legislation that would have banned the use of individual housing for pregnant sows.
"This is a great example of a governor standing up to powerful lobbying groups on behalf of small, independent farmers," says NPPC President-elect Dr. Howard Hill, a veterinarian and pork producer from Cambridge, Iowa. "America's family hog farmers thank Governor Christie for rejecting this bad legislation."
The legislation, backed by the Humane Society of the United States and other animal rights activists, would have prevented farmers from caring for their animals in a way approved for providing the well-being of sows during pregnancy by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians.
"HSUS continues to drive this unreasonable legislation in states with little pork production in an attempt to push a national agenda, but states are starting to push back," Hill says.
In rejecting the legislation, Christie said: "The proper balancing of humane treatment of gestation 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 [of Agriculture] and the Department [of Agriculture]."
In 2004, the New Jersey agriculture departments adopted "Humane Standards" for livestock. In 2008, the state Supreme Court upheld most of the standards, including a direct challenge of the regulations governing the treatment of gestating pigs.
HSUS targeting states with few pork producers
The defeat in New Jersey was the latest in a series of losses for HSUS. Few states have enacted bans through ballot initiatives or through the legislative process because of the negative impacts bans would have on local pork producers. Most recently, the legislatures in Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont chose not to pass measures banning individual housing.
HSUS was strategically targeting states in the northeast, where pork producers aren't as numerous, says NPPC director of communications Dave Warner.
"I don't know that they have more than a dozen hog farmers in New Jersey, and I don't believe any of them use gestation stalls," Warner says. "New York would have the most significant pork production of those states, and it's not very big. So you can see they're trying to pick off the low-hanging fruit."