N.J. Farm Animal Protections Upheld

The Associated Press
Tuesday, February 20, 2007; 2:11 AM

NEWARK, N.J. -- A coalition of animal rights and food safety groups are stinging from a legal setback in their efforts to toughen New Jersey's standards for the humane treatment of farm animals.

A state appellate court unanimously decided Friday to reject the coalition's attempt to block new state standards which it claims are flawed.

The New Jersey Department of Agriculture, following a directive from the state Legislature, developed and adopted regulations governing humane care, raising and marketing of domestic livestock, affecting animals from poultry and rabbits to pigs and cows. Some of the regulations were adopted in June 2004 and others more recently.

The Farm Sanctuary, a half-dozen other animal welfare groups, organic consumers groups and individual farms appealed the regulations, arguing some allowed inhumane practices.

Farm Sanctuary said in a statement that it was disappointed by the appellate court's ruling.

"The department defined 'humane' as 'marked by compassion, sympathy and consideration for the welfare of animals,' but then produced standards that fly in the face of that definition and allow intolerable animal abuse," said Gene Baur, Farm Sanctuary president.

Among the practices the groups cited in their appeal were: cutting tails off dairy cows to facilitate milking, confining pregnant pigs and veal calves in crates barely larger than their bodies, force-feeding ducks and geese to expand their livers to produce foie gras, and transporting emaciated animals and "downed ones," those unable to stand, to slaughter for human food.

Dr. Nancy Halpern, the state veterinarian, said downed cows cannot legally be taken to slaughter in this country and other animals could only be slaughtered if there were no concerns about disease and they could be transported humanely, not by dragging them.

She said trimming cow tails had been widespread years ago but now is done only occasionally. There are no veal-raising operations in New Jersey, Halpern added, and she is unaware of any farms that confine pregnant pigs in crates.

No foie gras is currently produced in New Jersey, although legislation to ban the practice was proposed last fall.

"We try to include even the contentious situations (in the rules) and made sure we review the available science within this country and other countries as well," Halpern said.

Tricia Ritterbusch, a spokeswoman for Farm Sanctuary, said that the groups had fought the regulations, even though New Jersey is not a major farm state and some of the practices questioned do not go on here, because it is the first state to enact such regulations.

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