TRENTON, N.J.—Today, a bill to ban the crates used to cruelly confine mother pigs and calves raised for veal was signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy. The bill is sponsored by Senator Vin Gopal and Assemblyman Raj Mukherji. It passed the state Senate in June 2023 and state Assembly in May 2023. The bill requires the New Jersey Department of Agriculture to update humane standards regulations to allow the animals to more freely move and turn around.
An extensive coalition co-led by the Humane Society of the United States and the Animal Legal Defense Fund—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 enhances public health, promotes food safety and reduces animal suffering on factory farms.
COVID-19 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 Elissa Frank, New Jersey state director for the Humane Society of the United States. “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 often face a similar fate. With the passage of this legislation, we can properly address both animal misery and the public health risks.”
“Passing this legislation, which is supported by over 93% 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 legislative affairs manager Brian Hackett.
“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. Gopal. Assemblyman Mukherji also noted, “There is no justifiable reason to keep pregnant sows or newly born calves in heartbreakingly cruel and inhumane conditions that prohibit them from even turning around in their quarters. With today’s signature, we are one step closer to ensuring that all living beings in New Jersey are treated with common decency and respect.”
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.
In addition to the animal advocacy groups, the New Jersey Farm Bureau supported the most recent version of the legislation.