This tweet surprised me:
Yes, Chris Christie is more mean-spirited than Sheriff Joe Arpaio, at least on the issue of so-called gestational cages for pigs. In fact, on this issue, Arpaio isn't mean-spirited at all -- he's been opposed to the small, constricting cages for many years, whereas Christie may not be mean-spirited so much as, well, self-serving, as the Humane Society's Wayne Pacelle explains:
I can understand Chris Christie's dilemma -- either signing an enormously popular bill to ban gestation crates in New Jersey or caving in to the veto demands of Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, whose support is coveted by every aspiring Republican presidential candidate who trudges through Iowa. There's no mystery that Christie is closely examining the idea of running for president, and that the state's first-in-the-nation caucuses often winnow the field and set up the front-runners.But Christie has no desire to prove anything of the sort, so he's told Iowa voters he'll veto the New Jersey bill, just as he did last year.
But defying Gov. Branstad might be just what Christie needs to prove he's no handmaiden of the political class in this country....
Pacelle explains that the cages are falling out of favor:
This issue has been on state ballot three times -- first in Florida and then in Arizona and California -- and each time voters approved the ban by ever-wider margins. In Arizona, the conservative sheriff of Maricopa County, Joe Arpaio, was the pitchman for the HSUS ballot initiative to ban the crates. In 2006, 62 percent of Arizonans voted for the ban. California voters approved a similar ban with nearly 64 percent of the vote, with the measure even winning in much of the state’s more conservative and agriculture-dominated Central Valley.But Christie won't yield.
Six other states, by act of their legislatures or state rulemaking, have passed laws to phase out the crates, including the major pig-producing states of Colorado, Michigan and Ohio.
But those public policy gains are less compelling than the revolution that's occurring in the food industry. More than 60 of the biggest names in food retail have said they want to cleanse their supply chains of pork from outfits that confine the sows so severely. In announcing it would phase out its purchase of pork from farms that confine sows in crates, McDonald's -- which buys perhaps 15 percent of all pork bellies in the United States -- said gestation stalls "are not a sustainable production system for the future. There are alternatives that we think are better for the welfare of sows." Denny’s said that banning gestation crates "is best for our company, our guests, and our continued work to improve animal welfare."
During the last 30 months, almost every big name in food retail has gotten on board, including fast-food giants Burger King and Hardee's, supermarket chains Kroger and Safeway, food service providers such as Aramark, Compass and Sodexo, and middle-America restaurants such as Bob Evans and Cracker Barrel.
But the argument that really clinches the case is that some of the biggest pig producers have decided to get out of the crates business. Smithfield and Cargill have made pledges to rid their production systems of that form of extreme confinement. Tyson has indicated it wants to move in that direction.
Hell, there's even an editorial in favor of the bill at National Review:
... The National Pork Producers Council opposes S998, because it opposes any legislation that might constrain animal agriculture. The group's communications director belittled animal-welfare concerns, telling a journalist, "So our animals can't turn around for the 2.5 years that they are in the stalls producing piglets.... I don't know who asked the sow if she wanted to turn around.”Nahhh. Not Chris Christie.
Most of us are not so dismissive where cruelty to animals is at issue, which is why the bill is supported by 93 percent of New Jersey voters, including 94 percent of Democrats and 92 percent of Republicans. It's hard to imagine a more popular piece of legislation.
... it's not just animal science that is offended by the crates -- so is basic morality. In short, forcing pigs to spend their lives in such conditions violates elementary principles of decency, compassion, and mercy.
It also violates Biblical principles, which teach us that righteous people have concern for the welfare of their animals. "Animals are God's creatures," the Catholic Catechism teaches. "He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory. Thus men owe them kindness. We should recall the gentleness with which saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals."
Matthew Scully, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush and vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, has written eloquently about the need to get rid of these crates, both in his book Dominion, which opens with a denunciation of crates as violating conservative principles, and in articles for The American Conservative and National Review Online.
The bill on Governor Christie's desk right now is a common-sense measure that merely requires that pigs in New Jersey be able to lie down when they wish and turn around comfortably.
Surely, that's the least we as a society can provide them.
New Jersey doesn't have a lot of pig farms, and animal rights activists say none actually use these cages. So the bill won't have much practical effect. But by signing it, Christie could articulate a principle. His veto also articulates a principle: