Public Health Advocates Urge Governor Murphy To Sign Gestation Crate Ban Bill

After years of long conversations and several stakeholder groups’ collaboration, NJ’s Legislature passed A-1970/S-1298 in both Houses, which would end the inhumane confinement of both mother pigs and veal calves. The bipartisan bill, which passed in the Assembly 73-1 in May, and 36-1 in Senate on June 20th, heads now to Governor Murphy’s desk for consideration, culminating in an opportunity for the bill to become law during the legislative summer recess.

The call to end this confinement comes after a long period of discussion with coalition members and stakeholders including the Humane Society of the United States, Animal Legal Defense Fund, and the New Jersey Farm Bureau who are all in support of this bill’s success.

New Jersey residents are calling for an end to the confinement of mother pigs and calves used for veal in tiny cages known as gestation crates and veal crates. These cages are so small, the animals are virtually unable to move for almost their entire lives. While most of the opposition to these crates centers on their inherent cruelty to animals, there is another critical reason New Jersey should take action to ban them: the extreme confinement of farm animals is a risk to public health.

Both methods of confinement have serious negative consequences for food safety. Leading public health experts and organizations, including the American Public Health Association, the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the Center for Food Safety have argued that keeping mother pigs in gestation crates makes them more susceptible to infection. The stress of living in these crates causes weaker immune systems in the mothers, leading to more chance of disease in both them and their offspring. As the above groups indicate, “pathogen-infected piglets often do not exhibit any symptoms, meaning that infectious diseases can persist in the piglets through slaughter without detection, resulting in pork products contaminated with pathogens.”

These contaminated pork products can then sicken humans. An analysis of reports submitted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that there are over 500,000 infections annually “attributed to the consumption of pork.”

The American Public Health Association, the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the Center for Food Safety also explain that “pigs are ‘ideal mixing vessels’ for various strains of influenza virus, including human influenza. Intensive confinement increases the chances that a strain of influenza carried by pigs will ‘jump’ to humans.” When one considers that the 2009 swine flu claimed hundreds of thousands of human lives worldwide, the need for reform becomes apparent.

The Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, a project of the Pew Charitable Trusts and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, also noted how gestation crates threaten the health of both animals and people. They recommended the phase-out of “all systems that restrict natural movement” of farm animals, including gestation and veal crates.

Initiatives to ban crates are overwhelmingly popular with voters. When polled, 93% of New Jersey voters said that gestation crates should be outlawed. Moreover, humane organizations, veterinarians, legal groups, and the New Jersey Farm Bureau have come together to oppose the strict confinement caging of these farm animals. In previous years, legislation to phase out crates has passed both the New Jersey Senate and Assembly.

A-1970/S-1298 would phase out the use of gestation and veal crates in New Jersey and this crucial legislation, which has bipartisan support, protects our public’s health while maintaining common sense and decent protections for these animals. We in the public health and veterinary community hope the New Jersey Legislature will act swiftly to pass this reasonable measure that benefits New Jersey families and animal welfare.

 

Dr. Sarah Motyka is a graduate of University of Florida, College of Veterinary Medicine. She worked in emergency medicine in Sussex County and then founded and operated Eleos Veterinary Service, an in-home euthanasia practice servicing Northern New Jersey.

 

Dr. Gail Hansen is a private consultant on public health policy. She was an epidemiologist for Kansas for more than 10 years.

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