One of the more frustrating topics we cover here is the National Rifle Association’s remarkable ability to convince Republican lawmakers to routinely vote against the will of their own supporters. Most recently, the NRA has financially coerced Republicans to vote against expanded background checks in spite of supermajority support by Republican voters and, believe it or not, actual NRA members. On top of that, the NRA has convinced the congressional Republicans to sponsor legislation that would block President Obama’s efforts to ban the sale and distribution of ivory inside the United States, thus protecting African elephant populations.
But it looks like Iowa-based corporate pig farmers and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have gathered the strength to wield similar power. Make up your own jokes as we segue from pork products to Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ). This is one of those stories where a fat joke might be deserved given how wimpy, tone-deaf and, ultimately, cruel Christie’s latest veto threat truly is.
Before we continue, I should also preface that, yes, I’m going to be a Debbie Downer for all of you liberals who festoon your Twitter and Facebook feeds with posts exulting in the glory of all things bacon in spite of the meat industry’s grotesque abuses of undocumented workers and, worse, its super-colossal greenhouse gas production, outpacing both transportation and industrial emissions. Sorry, but unless you’re buying carbon offsets, your gratuitous worship of bacon and other factory meats is part of the problem.
Those of you who are still reading at this point may or may not be aware of the fact that nearly all factory pig farms use a contraption called a “gestation crate” or “sow stall.” It’s a narrow, medieval enclosure where sows are kept almost immobile, literally unable to turn around, lay down or generally move. Consequently, sows are perpetually terrified, exhibiting repetitive behavior such as gnawing on the metal crate bars while obviously suffering from elevated stress hormones. Corporate pig growers insist this is the best way to guarantee fertilization and successful pregnancies, but experts and many food service companies have refuted such claims and categorically denounced the practice for what it is: cruel and unusual. But Americans need their bacon, so whatever.
Enter Chris Christie and the 2016 presidential campaign. There’s a bill headed for Christie’s desk that would make the Garden State the fourth state to ban gestation crates, joining California, Arizona and Florida.
The bill would direct the state Department of Agriculture to prohibit “the confinement, in an enclosure, of any sow during gestation in a manner that prevents the sow from turning around freely, lying down, standing up, or fully extending the limbs of the animal.”
How popular is this legislation? Extremely. A Mason-Dixon poll showed an overwhelming 93 percent of New Jersey residents support the ban, while the bill itself sailed through the state legislature with only one no-vote in the state Senate.
What’s Christie going to do? He assured Iowa pork producers that he would veto the bill, of course. Why? Iowa is responsible for 20 million factory farmed pigs, for one. And then there’s the Iowa Caucus, naturally. In other words, Iowa pork producers carry greater influence over Christie than 93 percent of New Jersey voters and nearly the entire New Jersey Assembly and Senate. Now that is some serious NRA caliber influence.
“He indicated to us that he was going to veto the bill,” said Bill Tentinger, an Iowa pork producer and former president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association.
So, Governor Straight-Talk traveled halfway across the nation so he could whisper in the ear of powerful lobbyists in Iowa about his intentions to veto a bill that would ban a cruel, archaic animal torture device — a bill that has no jurisdiction in Iowa — while not saying a damn thing to the 93 percent of New Jerseyans who support the bill. Christie is not only running away from the will of New Jerseyans, but he’s running into the loving arms of the pork industry in Iowa. On top of everything else, his veto would condemn defenseless animals to a lifetime of horrifying confinement. That right there is the behavior of a wimp and a coward.
UPDATE: From commenter Winston Smith:
Former Iowa farm boy here. When I was growing up, we had farrowing crates, not gestation crates. The difference is that farrowing crates had far more room, we let the sows go outside twice a day to eat while we cleaned the crates, and the sows were only in the farrowing house from the time they were about to give birth until the time we weened the pigs, (about 3 weeks later.) Then they would go back to the pasture.
Gestation crates are completely different. From the time they are chosen to be sows rather than sold for meat, they are placed in these far more restrictive crates. During her life the sow is artificially inseminated as soon as her previous litter is removed and the process repeats throughout her short life. After each insemination, she is given an ultrasound to confirm she has a large enough litter to continue gestating. If not, they abort the litter and inseminate her again since it is not profitable for her to carry that litter to term.
She will continue the cycle of insemination, gestation, and birthing until she cannot produce the required litter size. At that point she is not worth feeding. This will mark the first time she will leave the crate in her entire adult life. She is unable to stand properly and basically crawls rather than walks. She is loaded up with other spent sows and taken to the “sale barn” where she is sold at a heavily discounted rate to companies like Godfather’s Pizza (Herman Canes old company) and others for the very limited amount of usable meat left in her shell of a body. Finally her life is over when the slaughter her for sausage and other pork toppings for your pizza.
In this way, sows are mere host organisms. They cannot get up or turn around in gestation crates, they can only gestate and give birth. There is a reason states like Iowa and others have AG Gag laws. The factory farming giants know that if people really understood how CAFO’s worked, how the sausage is made, they would most likely go out of business.