In vetoing a ban on narrow cages that prevent pregnant pigs from turning around, Gov. Christie drew accusations last week from animal-rights advocates of bowing to the will of the pork industry, which has a large presence in the early presidential nominating state of Iowa.
On Monday, the governor won a positive reaction for his decision – in Iowa.
Gov. Terry Branstad – on whose behalf Christie made several trips to Iowa while serving as chairman of the Republican Governors Association – called Christie's veto of legislation that would have banned pig gestation crates in New Jersey a "good decision," though he didn't believe it was motivated by presidential politics, according to the Des Moines Register.
Branstad said he had spoken to Christie about the bill, sharing "my interest in this and Iowa Farm Bureau and the National Pork Producers," before the New Jersey governor issued the veto, according to the Register.
From Branstad's comments, however, it's unclear whether he understood the legislation. He said the crates protected piglets by preventing their mothers from falling on them.
"This is an issue that most people in New Jersey have no clue," Branstad said, according to the Register. "They don't raise hardly any pigs in New Jersey, they don't have farrowing crates. But this is something we do have knowledge of in Iowa, and I give him credit for listening to and understanding that this is something we're very concerned about and that does impact consumers as well because if these baby pigs are crushed and die that means there are fewer pigs and that impacts the price of pork."
Gestation crates, however, don't prevent piglets from being crushed – they're only for pregnant sows, said Larry Katz, a professor of animal sciences and senior associate director of the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station at Rutgers University.
Sows that have recently given birth are kept in farrowing crates, Katz said, which are designed to give piglets an escape route to prevent them from being crushed. He said New Jersey's bill wouldn't have outlawed farrowing crates.
Asked for comment on the discrepancy between Branstad's comments and the bill Christie vetoed, a Branstad spokeswoman said Monday evening that she would respond Tuesday. She did not provide a response as of late Tuesday.
Matt Dominguez, public policy manager for farm animal protection at the Humane Society, called it "ironic" that Branstad "insulted New Jerseyans by saying they have 'no clue,' when it's Branstad who is clearly clueless about gestation crates."
Proponents of gestation crates say they let farmers provide better care to sows, while opponents say the crates are so small they're abusive. The crates have been banned in nine states, according to the Humane Society, and some large pork buyers – including McDonalds – have announced plans to phase them out.
With relatively few pig farmers in New Jersey, Christie called the bill he vetoed "a solution in search of a problem."
On Tuesday, the New Jersey Farm Bureau issued a statement commending Christie for the veto, noting that of the state's pig farmers, few are breeders.
"This bill is not about Iowa, it's about farming practices in New Jersey," the bureau said in the statement. "Rather than approve a bill that would have been used by advocates to influence corresponding action in other states, the governor instead acted in the best interest of his own state's livestock operators."