pig in gestation crate

Story highlights

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced Friday he would veto a bill banning pig gestation crates

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad praised Christie's decision in a press conference Monday

Christie is considering a 2016 presidential bid

CNN  — 

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said Gov. Chris Christie’s veto of a ban that would have prohibited the use of pig gestation crates in New Jersey was a “good decision.”

According to the Des Moines Register, Branstad said in his weekly press conference Monday that he personally lobbied for Christie to not sign the measure, arguing that people in New Jersey don’t understand the issue.

While animal rights activists and supporters of the ban say the crates are cruel – pregnant sows can’t turn around in the limited space – advocates like Branstad argue the crates help keep sows separated from smaller piglets that are at risk of being stepped on and killed.

“This is an issue that most people in New Jersey have no clue,” Branstad said. “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.”

By comparison, New Jersey has far fewer pigs (9,000) compared to Iowa, the county’s largest pork producer with 20.5 million, according to the USDA.

Iowa is also a state that holds enormous influence in the 2016 presidential election given its status as the first-in-the-nation nominating state – thus a politically important state for Christie should he decide to make a White House bid.

“I did share with Gov. Christie my personal experience and my interest in this and that of Iowa Farm Bureau and the National Pork Producers, all of which are headquartered here in Iowa,” Branstad said.

Christie said he vetoed the bill because it was a “solution in search of a problem” and a “political movement masquerading as substantive policy.” Such decisions, he argued, should be made by the state’s Board of Agriculture, which currently doesn’t outlaw the crates.

In his comments Monday, Branstad appeared to be conflating gestation crates with farrowing gates, which keep pigs separated from piglets after giving birth but still allows access for nursing.

It’s an argument that’s been pushed by other opponents of gestation bans.

“It’s stunning that the governor of Iowa is so unfamiliar with pig farming that he doesn’t know the difference between gestation crates and farrowing crates,” said Paul Shapiro, vice president of Farm Animal Protection at the Humane Society of the United States.

“This bill applied only to gestation crates, meaning there are no piglets to be kept separate from their mothers, since they’re all in utero,” he told CNN.

The Humane Society, which helped push the New Jersey bill and advocates for group housing for sows, argue that pig farmers use the crates simply to cram as many pigs into one facility as possible.

Dave Warner, spokesman for the National Pork Producers Council, acknowledged that farrowing crates – not gestation crates – are used to prevent sows from stepping on piglets, and said someone who makes comments like Branstad’s are “just mixing them up.”

He said group housing can result in aggression between pigs, and gestation crates help protect adult pigs from each other. He added it’s true that the crates help provide space for slightly more pigs in a facility but argued “there’s nothing inhumane about them.”

Because of the crates, he said, farmers and veterinarians have better access to provide daily monitoring and care for the pigs, making them healthier.