Oral Arguments Heard In Legal Case Against New Jersey Department Of Agriculture

On December 13, oral arguments were heard in
a landmark case, challenging the New Jersey Department of Agriculture's
(NJDA) mandated "humane" standards for farm animals. A broad coalition
of humane organizations, farmers, veterinarians, environmental and
consumer groups allege that the NJDA has failed to establish humane
standards for farm animals – as required by the New Jersey legislature
in 1996 – and has instead sanctioned numerous inhumane practices used to
raise animals for meat, eggs and milk on industrialized factory farms.

This lawsuit seeks a judicial declaration that many regulations that
authorize cruel factory farming practices are illegal under New Jersey
law, and goes beyond any previous legal action taken on behalf of farm
animals in the United States.

The plaintiffs include Farm Sanctuary, the New Jersey Society for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, The Humane Society of the United
States, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals,
Animal Welfare Institute, Animal Welfare Advocacy, Saving Our Resources
Today, Center for Food Safety, the Organic Consumers Association,
farmers and citizens.

The NJDA regulations permit numerous inhumane farming practices,
* Confining pregnant pigs for months at a time in gestation crates,
individual metal enclosures too small for them to turn around;
* Tethering and restrictively confining calves raised for veal to
prevent them from exercising, so their muscles can't develop and remain
soft; and
* Mutilations without anesthesia, including castration, de-beaking,
de-toeing and tail docking.

The NJDA permitted the starvation of egg laying hens by forced molting
with the original version of the Department's "humane" standards, but
recently removed this factory farming practice from the list of
acceptable standards, finally ceding to one of the many inhumane issues
addressed by the plaintiffs.

"Ending forced molting is a step in the right direction, but
unfortunately this issue was only one of many inhumane practices
endorsed by New Jersey Department of Agriculture." said Gene Baur,
president of Farm Sanctuary. "The department continues to cater to the
will of factory farming, endorsing cruelty to animals as a standard
business practice."

In 1996, the New Jersey legislature directed the NJDA to develop
appropriate "standards for humane raising, keeping, care, treatment,
marketing, and sale of domestic livestock." By law, these regulations
were supposed to protect farm animals from inhumane, industrialized
farming practices.

In May 2004, the agency finally issued regulations that not only
continue to allow industrialized farming practices, but provide broad
exemptions for agribusiness. The regulations exempt "routine husbandry
practices," essentially codifying the abusive practices the legislature
sought to change.

"New Jersey Department of Agriculture officials may be the only people
left in America who still think factory farming is humane," said
Jonathan R. Lovvorn, vice president of animal protection litigation for
The HSUS. "Those animals raised for food deserve protection from
egregious cruelty during their lives."

The organizations are represented by the public interest law firms Meyer
Glitzenstein & Crystal, Washington, D.C., and Egert & Trakinski,
Hackensack, N.J. More information about the New Jersey lawsuit can be
found at njfarms.org.

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