Agriculture Policy Issues In the Cooker
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s veto of a proposed “ag-gag” bill yesterday almost overshadowed progress toward a milestone in our anti-gestation crate campaign: the New Jersey legislature gave final approval to Senate Bill 1921 to bring the Garden State that much closer to being the 10th state to ban the extreme confinement of breeding sows. Championed by state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union, the bill enjoys broad partisan support – having passed the Senate 29 to 4 and the Assembly 60 to 5. Now it awaits Gov. Chris Christie’s signature.
This legislative progress comes just two weeks after Canada’s top eight supermarkets agreed to phase out their purchases of pork from operations that confine sows in this extreme way. That’s in addition to the 50-plus companies in the U.S. that have made similar pledges – from McDonald’s to Costco to Cracker Barrel.
There’s a lot of talk by some within the pork industry that these confinement crates are humane. But how can a housing system be humane if the animals are immobilized for almost their entire lives? Isn’t it a priori inhumane to deny an animal the opportunity to engage in the most basic behaviors, including the opportunity to turn around?
As the states and so many North American corporations work to give pigs more space and better lives, there are some in Congress who are trying to subvert this elemental progress. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, one of the most anti-animal welfare politicians in modern history, is planning to offer an amendment tomorrow during votes in the House Agriculture Committee to nullify all state and local laws to protect farm animals (the measure is so radical it would also nullify state rules and laws related to worker safety, environmental protection, and food safety).
I have to laugh when politicians like King throw out their bromides, in their windy discourses on other issues on the House floor, about “protecting states’ rights.” The fact is, when they don’t like what the states do, they are quick to become advocates of federal supremacy. That’s not a case of principle, but of ideological opportunism and deception. Let’s hope that if members of the House Agriculture Committee do not place sufficient importance on animal welfare, at least they’ll pay attention to federalism and the other principles of our American Constitution.