Politics & Policy

Don’t Ban Maternity Pens

Christie should listen to farmers and veterinarians — not anti-meat activists.

Last week, animal-liberation activist Bruce Friedrich wrote at National Review Online that New Jersey governor Chris Christie should sign a bill, which he vetoed last year, that would ban individual maternity pens for housing pregnant pigs. Friedrich was a longtime vice president of PETA. He remains an activist who wants to eliminate meat, egg, and dairy farms altogether. He has a clear agenda to make farming look as bad as possible. But does he have a valid point on this particular issue? No.

The first and most important thing that everyone should know is that the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians have determined that maternity pens provide for animal welfare. They are not inhumane. In fact, they help farmers provide individual care for their animals.

Individual pens came into use in the past few decades because of the drawbacks of housing pregnant pigs in groups. These large, hormonal animals tend to fight for dominance, leading to nasty injuries to other animals and potentially threatening worker safety. Housing them individually allows for individual care and feeding, and prevents fighting.

Interestingly, some newer pens are designed to allow sows to back out and access a common area. Most don’t leave when given the choice. The animals are apparently quite content with having a private stall to eat and sleep in.

What’s really going on? The noise about maternity pens is about optics, economics, and politics.

There are no farms in New Jersey that use maternity pens, and new pork farms aren’t exactly popping up in the nation’s most population-dense state. A ban in New Jersey, however, would provide a P.R. boost to the activists’ campaign to ban them nationally. So far, activists have focused on banning these pens in places where they aren’t used — Rhode Island, for instance, or Florida, where exactly two farms use them. They would never get a ban passed in Iowa, but they hope they can take advantage of more liberal statehouses in the Northeast.

Fortunately, these legislators are seeing through the charade. Bans that were pushed in Connecticut, Vermont, New York, and Massachusetts have all been rejected. Legislators and the public are hearing what farmers and veterinarians have to say — and it’s a much more trustworthy message than what’s coming from professional activists who have never worked on a pig farm.

The animal-liberation movement has matured. Bruce Friedrich used to say things like “blowing things up and smashing windows . . . I think it’s a great way to bring about animal liberation,” or that eating meat “is not your personal decision, any more than, you know, whether somebody beats their child is their personal decision.” These quotes are not going to win over Americans, so activists are now trying to sell themselves as being concerned with pig “protection” (instead of liberation) and asking for seemingly small reforms. Friedrich even uses religious language to push his political goals and connect with conservatives — which is nothing new, since his former employer, PETA, has launched various campaigns twisting the Bible into supporting a vegetarian agenda.

But these seemingly small requests have big consequences. Banning sow maternity pens nationally would put many small farmers out of business by forcing them into costly infrastructure changes. That’s exactly what Friedrich and his associates at PETA, the Humane Society of the U.S., and other vegan groups want. For those of us who support farmers, veterinarians, and affordable bacon, that outcome shouldn’t be appetizing.

—​ Will Coggin is a senior research analyst at the Center for Consumer Freedom.

Most Popular


Men Literally Died for That Flag, You Idiots

The American flag’s place in our culture is beginning to look less unassailable. The symbol itself is under attack, as we’ve seen with Nike dumping a shoe design featuring an early American flag, Megan Rapinoe defending her national-anthem protests (she says she will never sing the song again), and ... Read More

The Plot against Kavanaugh

Justice on Trial, by Mollie Hemingway and Carrie Severino (Regnery,  256 pp., $28.99) The nomination and confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court was the political event of 2018, though not for the reasons anyone expected. All High Court confirmations these days are fraught with emotion and tumult ... Read More
Politics & Policy

He Just Can’t Help Himself

By Saturday, the long-simmering fight between Nancy Pelosi and her allies on one side and the “squad” associated with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the other had risen to an angrier and more destructive level at the Netroots Nation conference. Representative Ayanna Pressley, an African-American Massachusetts ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Ilhan Omar Is Completely Assimilated

Beto O’Rourke, the losing Texas Senate candidate who bootstrapped his way into becoming a losing presidential candidate, had a message for refugees who had come to America: Your new country is a hellhole. The former congressman told a roundtable of refugees and immigrants in Nashville, Tenn., last week: ... Read More
White House

On Gratitude and Immigration

Like both Rich and David, I consider it flatly inappropriate for the president of the United States to be telling Americans -- rhetorically or otherwise -- to “go back where you came from.” In consequence, you will find no defense of the president from me, either. What Trump tweeted over the weekend was ... Read More

We All Wanted to Love the Women’s Soccer Team

For the first time in my life, I did not root for an American team. Whatever the sport, I have always rooted American. And if those who called in to my radio show were representative of my audience, many millions of Americans made the same sad choice. It takes a lot for people like me not to root for an ... Read More

The ‘Squad’ Gives a Gift to Donald Trump

On Sunday, Donald Trump gave the Democrats a gift -- comments that indicate he thinks native-born congresswomen he detests should “go back” to the countries of their ancestors. On Monday, the four congresswomen handed Trump a gift in return, managing to respond to the president’s insults in some of the most ... Read More