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NY Politics
Gov. Chris Christie Vetoes Pig-Crate Ban
From the Wall Street Journal of Fri, 28 Nov 2014 20:45:19 EST
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie poses for a photo with Bryan Traeger of West Des Moines during Gov. Terry Branstad's birthday bash on Oct. 25 in Clive, Iowa. Mr. Christie has made political alliances with key Republicans in the state, which holds the nation’s first presidential caucuses.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie poses for a photo with Bryan Traeger of West Des Moines during Gov. Terry Branstad's birthday bash on Oct. 25 in Clive, Iowa. Mr. Christie has made political alliances with key Republicans in the state, which holds the nation’s first presidential caucuses. Bryon Houlgrave, The Des Moines Register/Associated Press

Gov. Chris Christie vetoed legislation Friday that would have banned the practice of confining pregnant pigs in crates, an issue that symbolizes the competing interests facing the potential 2016 Republican presidential contender.

New Jersey has few pig farms, but they are widespread in Iowa, the nation’s leading state for pork production that also happens to be a battleground state holding the first presidential caucuses.

While the bill wouldn’t affect farmers in Iowa, Mr. Christie has made political alliances with key Republicans there, and pork producers lobbied against the bill.

Meanwhile, animal-rights activists had collected thousands of signatures and enlisted celebrities such as Danny DeVito and Bill Maher. The bill passed both houses of the Legislature by large margins.

The veto highlighted the difficulty of mulling a run for the 2016 Republican nomination while governing a blue state like New Jersey where Democrats control the Legislature and can force Mr. Christie to take tough stands, said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

“There’s absolutely no price to pay in New Jersey, and there’s a big price to pay in Iowa,” Mr. Murray said about the veto.

A spokesman for Mr. Christie declined to comment on whether political motivations influenced his veto.

In his veto message released Friday, Mr. Christie was critical of the bill, and said lawmakers passed it in response to “misguided partisans and special interest groups.”

“This bill is a solution in search of a problem. It is a political movement masquerading as substantive policy,” Mr. Christie wrote in his three-page veto message.

Mr. Christie compared the pig-crate legislation to an effort by the Legislature to ban a form of natural-gas extraction known as hydraulic fracturing in New Jersey. The technique, also known as fracking, isn’t widespread in New Jersey.

Democratic state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, the pig-crate bill’s prime sponsor and a frequent Christie opponent, said the legislation had bipartisan support, and New Jersey has many animal-cruelty laws on its books.

“Obviously, the governor is putting his personal political ambitions ahead of the humane treatment of animals,” Mr. Lesniak said.

Nine states have banned the use of so-called pig-gestation crates, cages that house pregnant sows, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

Farmers have argued that the crates keep pigs from fighting and from injuring their fetuses by rolling over.

Animal-rights activists have waged a national campaign, saying the crates are cruel and prevent pigs from extending their limbs.

New Jersey lawmakers first passed legislation in 2012 that would make the confinement of a gestating pig an animal-cruelty offense, with fines of up to $1,000 or jail time of six months for each sow confined. Cruelty was defined as confinement that prevented the sow from lying down or extending its limbs.

Mr. Christie vetoed that bill last year. His veto message was less strident then, with Mr. Christie stating that New Jersey was on the “vanguard” of protecting livestock and that state officials would continue to monitor the situation.

Lawmakers passed a revised bill in October that put the development of a crate-ban policy and penalties in the state’s hands.

Animal-rights activists condemned Mr. Christie’s veto.

“Gov. Christie has proved himself an outlier on the issue of extreme confinement of farm animals,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States.

National Pork Producers Council, an industry group, praised Mr. Christie’s veto.

“Gov. Christie recognized that it’s the hog farmers not national animal rights groups who know best how to ensure the well-being of pregnant sows,” said David Warner, a spokesman.

Write to Heather Haddon at heather.haddon@wsj.com



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