Today S.1298/A.1970, a bill to ban the crates used to cruelly confine mother pigs and calves raised for veal, passed the New Jersey state Senate. The bill is prime-sponsored by Senator Vin Gopal and Assemblyman Raj Mukherji and will now go to Gov. Murphy for his signature. The bill passed the state Assembly in May 2023. The bill requires the New Jersey Department of Agriculture to update humane standards regulations to allow the animals to freely move and turn around.

An extensive coalition co-led by the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Humane Society of the United States — comprising over 60 businesses, environmental organizations and animal protection groups on the local, state, and national levels — has been pressing the case that this type of measure ensures public health, promotes food safety, and reduces animal suffering on factory farms.

“Passing this legislation, which is supported by over 93 percent of New Jersey residents, was long overdue. We are happy to see New Jersey join 11 other states that have moved away or prohibited altogether the cruel confinement of these sensitive and highly intelligent animals,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund strategic legislative affairs manager Kathleen Schatzmann. “We urge Gov. Murphy to sign this commonsense legislation into law.” 

The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the need for reform within industrial animal agriculture. Numerous scientists and a landmark United Nations report on pandemic risks have noted that the extreme confinement of farmed animals is one of the top drivers of zoonotic disease and its spread.

“These methods and the conditions they impose have been shown to increase the spread of diseases, which then can sicken people,” says New Jersey state director at the Humane Society of the United States Elissa Frank. “Many mother pigs in the industrial pork industry are confined in cages so small that they can’t even turn around. They’re forced to eat, sleep, and defecate in the same meager amount of space. Calves face a similar fate. With the passage of this legislation, we can properly address both the animal misery and the public health risks of the current situation.”

The American Public Health Association, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and the Center for Food Safety have stated that “[i]ntensive confinement prevents sows from moving freely and performing almost all natural behaviors, inducing high levels of stress. That stress triggers a physiological response that severely suppresses the sows’ immune function and that of their piglets, making the sows and their piglets more susceptible to disease.” These diseases can spread to humans, the organizations contend, since 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.” This “jumping” could potentially cause a future pandemic; the 2009 swine flu killed up to 575,000 people worldwide during just the first year it circulated. 

“I am thrilled to finally see S1298 passed through the legislature. I want to thank the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Humane Society of the United States for all of your advocacy in ensuring that gestating pigs and calves are being treated humanely,” says Sen. Vin Gopal.

In addition to the animal advocacy groups, the New Jersey Farm Bureau supported the most recent version of the legislation. The governor has 45 days from June 20 to act on the bill.

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