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Monday's Override Vote Seeks to Free Female Pigs From Cramped Cages

“If anyone treated a dog or cat this way in our state, they would be prosecuted for animal cruelty,” said Kim Saunders of St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison. “Like the vast majority of New Jerseyans, we think humane treatment should extend to all sensitive animals.”

St. Hubert’s is holding a rally at 2 p.m. Saturday at its Madison site, 575 Woodlawn Ave., along with representatives of the HSUS and the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The event is intended to fire up supporters for last-minute lobbying of their legislators before Monday’s Senate vote and as-yet unscheduled Assembly action, according to Saunders.

Whether the issue is couched as morality, intrusion, safety or dollars and cents, the final decision still comes down to politics.

State Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Union), sponsor of the Senate bill, S1921, conceded that the Legislature has yet to overturn a Christie veto. But this time is different for his Republican colleagues, he said.

“There’s no reason for them not to” override, because public opinion “overwhelmingly” supports the legislation and few if any New Jersey farmers would be affected, Lesniak said. The bill only requires that pigs not be kept “in unnecessarily cruel conditions,” he said.

For New Jersey residents, Murray said, “I don’t think there’s going to be any major backlash against anybody” in the Legislature who votes to overturn the veto.

But the scenario could look different to voters in Iowa, where other prospective presidential contenders might argue that “Christie couldn’t keep his Republicans in line,” Murray said.

So in Trenton, he said, the override vote on a minor matter should provide “a real good indication of Christie’s continued power” over the Republican caucus.

At least one Republican has already signaled his intention "to vote to override,” said state Sen. Kip Bateman (R-Somerset). The close confinement of sows “is a terrible practice,” he said.

Discouraging its use by giant producers might actually help level the playing field for small farmers in New Jersey and elsewhere who practice traditional, humane care for their animals, according to Bateman.

The state Senate on Thursday advanced another of Lesniak’s humane practices bills. The Economic Growth Committee approved S-2369, which would ban “bear baiting” by hunters. That is the practice of setting out food to lure bears to be killed, which Lesniak called “immoral and equivalent to shooting fish in a barrel.”

Witnesses testified that bear baiting attracts the animals into areas that they normally would avoid, such as backyards, and causes them to associate the odors of food and humans. The bill also would require communities and campgrounds in bear habitat to dispose of trash in bear-resistant dumpsters and cans.

The Christie administration did not respond to multiple requests for comments on this story.

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