Some of my earliest and fondest memories were made at New Jersey’s State Fair in Sussex County. My dad ran a booth at the fair every year since before I was born, and for ten days each summer, the rest of the world would fade away as I practically lived at the fairgrounds. I would spend hours lounging behind my dad’s booth, snacking on kettle corn, and meandering through the barns to escape the sweltering sun. It was there that I gained a true appreciation for farmed animals. I’d watch beaming children proudly show off their pigs and chickens, and wearied 4-H members dozing off in the hay with their prize-winning cow after a long day of impressing the judges.
Growing up in a suburban town, this was my one week each year to see pigs, cows, sheep, goats, and chickens up close and personal. But for many rural New Jersey residents, the fair is in many ways just another day in the life. Dozens of local 4-H groups come together each week to bond over their love for farm animals. Farmers across the Garden State wake up at dawn to feed fresh vegetables and add fresh bedding for their eagerly awaiting pigs or stay up long into the night to tend to a sick or injured calf.
New Jersey’s family farmers work hard to treat their animals with respect and farm with dignity. But the way most pigs and calves are treated in other states is not the way I saw the folks at the fair treat their animals.
Farmed animals have historically been left behind throughout the animal welfare movement for two reasons. First, corporate agricultural giants have taken extreme care in keeping their dirty secrets away from the public eye. For years, companies would slap images of happy animals roaming rolling hills onto their products, deceiving their trusting consumers, while they kept their real farms strictly out of view from the public. They have sugar-coated the truth, hidden behind meaningless laws and labels, flipped statistics in their favor, and played the martyr claiming that “efficient” protein will save the world.
Second, many of us had not taken the time to truly understand how our food was produced. In a world where we are bombarded with information and inundated with things to do, places to go, and people to see, for many of us, food is just a means to an end. The food industry has been so successful in detaching the end product from its origin that we have accepted their narrative without question, and so quiet complacency has continued.
But, thanks to my fellow New Jerseyans, that is changing with the advancement of bill A5236/S3401, which would put a statewide ban on the use of breeding pig gestation crates and veal crates. Our residents have opened up the conversation about the animals so many of us grew up eating during family barbecues, holidays, sporting events, or weeknight dinners with our parents. We asked ourselves, “Where do these animals come from? How did they live? And how can we do better for them?”
As a fellow New Jerseyan, born and raised, I know there are two values that are deeply ingrained in every New Jersey native. First, we don’t make excuses for an answer. As New Jerseyans, our instincts compel us to call out lies and seek the truth. Second, we continually strive for better. We cannot stand being stagnant, and we never do things solely because that’s “the way it’s always been done” or because someone else tells us it must be so. We ask questions, embrace new ideas, accept our flaws, and hold ourselves accountable for the well-being of others. Not only do we seek knowledge, but we also aren’t afraid of acting upon new knowledge to drive change.
Bill A5236/S3401 is a testament to these principles. First, there is no excuse to allow gestation and veal crates in New Jersey. Studies have shown they have no economic or safety benefits and cause significant suffering. Second, by advancing this bill we are striving for better by holding companies and the legislature accountable for the continued welfare of animals within our borders. We made it this far because we sought the truth, and as New Jerseyans, we aren’t afraid to put ourselves out there if it means making positive change. This is our chance to call out outdated, inhumane practices and tell the nation that we won’t allow them. That is why Compassion USA along with a broad coalition of supporters are calling on the New Jersey legislature to vote for A5236/S3401 in the new year. Let’s end the cage age!
By Allie Molinaro, Campaigns Coordinator