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Lesniak Bill Package To Address Animal Cruelty Advances From Committee

Bills Would Prohibit ‘Gestation Crates’ for Pigs; Would Ban Slaughter of Horses and Sale of Horse Meat for Human Consumption

TRENTON – A pair of bills sponsored by Senate Economic Growth Committee Chairman Raymond J. Lesniak which would prohibit the use of “gestation crates” for pigs and the slaughter of horses or the sale of horse meat for human consumption in New Jersey was approved by the Committee today.

“We have to recognize that if our society values such things as justice, fairness and compassion, then we have a societal responsibility to apply those conditions across the board – in our dealings with people as well as animals,” said Senator Lesniak, D-Union. “German philosopher Immanuel Kant said it best when he said, ‘We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.’ If we are serious about fostering a moral and ethical society, we have to be concerned not just with cruelty and injustice perpetrated by humans against humans, but also cruelty and injustice perpetrated by humans against the animal kingdom.”

The first bill in the package, S-1921, would establish an animal cruelty offense of cruel confinement of a gestating pig as a disorderly persons offense. The bill would define cruel confinement as crating, confining or tethering a gestating sow in order to prevent the free range of motion. Under the bill, a violator would be guilty of a disorderly persons offense, punishable by a fine of between $250 and $1,000 and up to six months imprisonment – and each gestating sow that is cruelly confined would be considered a separate offense. The bill would also subject violators to an additional civil penalty of between $250 and $1,000 to be recovered in the name of the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or a county society for the prevention of animal cruelty.

The bill would create exemptions for medical research, veterinary examination or treatment, transportation, education or exhibition, animal husbandry, humane slaughter, or the proper care of the animal during the seven-day period prior to the expected date of the animal giving birth.

The “gestation crate” or sow stall, is a small metal enclosure used in intensive pig farming, in which female breeding pigs are enclosed in a space so small as to prohibit the pig from turning around or lying down comfortably. Shortly after giving birth, the piglets are taken away and the sow is re-impregnated to start the whole process over again. Pork producers argue that the crates are necessary because sows that are housed together in pens will fight – but opponents note that immobilizing animals in crates increases the animals’ stress levels, and can cause other health problems.

“The practice of using gestation crates results in overcrowding and inhumane treatment of these animals,” said Senator Lesniak. “There are certainly other, more humane options to allow pregnant pigs to maintain free range of motion while still separating animals which may be prone to aggression during their pregnancies. This bill calls on pig farmers in New Jersey to adopt more humane alternatives to ‘gestation crates’ which satisfy the need to keep animals separated while avoiding undue stress on the animals.”

The bill was approved by a vote of 3-0, and now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

The second bill in the package, S-1976, would prohibit a person from engaging in the slaughter of horses for human consumption, or the sale, trade or attempted sale of horse meat in New Jersey. Under the bill, a person would be guilty of a disorderly persons offense, subject to a minimum criminal fine of $100 or a term of imprisonment not less than 30 days, for knowingly slaughtering a horse for consumption purposes, knowingly selling, bartering or attempting to sell or barter the flesh of a horse for human consumption, or any product made in whole or part from the flesh of a horse, and knowingly transporting a horse or horse meat for the purpose of human consumption. In addition to the criminal penalties under the bill, violators would be subject to additional civil fines of between $500 and $1,000 for each horse that has been slaughtered or transported, and each horse carcass or meat product that has been sold or bartered in violation of the bill’s provisions.

Senator Lesniak noted that in 2006, a law prohibiting federal funding of USDA horse meat inspections was enacted, effectively ending the slaughter of horses for human consumption in the United States. However, the USDA defunding provision was lifted in 2011 as part of a larger Congressional spending bill signed into law by President Obama. At the time that the ban was in place, horses intended for slaughter were – and still are – being sold to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico. As a result of the lifting of the inspection ban, horse slaughter plants are being considered in several states.

“Horses have developed a position within our society as work animals and companion animals, and I would think that many people would find the slaughter of horses for their meat to be a repugnant notion,” said Senator Lesniak. “We already have laws on the books banning the slaughter of domestic dogs and cats for human consumption, and this bill extends those same provisions to horses. With the many horse farms in New Jersey, it is imperative that we take a stand against the practice of slaughtering horses for human consumption, in order to send the message to the rest of the nation that the Garden State favors ethical and humane treatment of these animals.”

The bill was approved by a vote of 3-0, and now heads to the full Senate for consideration.