New Jersey suit a test case on farm animal cruelty
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New Jersey suit a test case on farm animal cruelty
By Jon Hurdle
Reuters -
December 13, 2006

TRENTON, New Jersey (Reuters) - New Jersey allows cruelty to farm animals by failing to ban practices such as castration without anesthetic, animal rights activists said on Wednesday in a lawsuit that might help set national standards for the treatment of livestock.

Groups including the Humane Society of the United States and Farm Sanctuary said the state Department of Agriculture had failed to establish humane standards for farm animals as required by a law implemented in 2004.

New Jersey is the only state requiring officials to set humane standards for the treatment of farm animals, and enforcing the measure could lead to better treatment of livestock across the country, said Gene Bauston, president of Farm Sanctuary.

Lawyers for the groups told a panel in the appellate division of New Jersey Superior Court that the state had bowed to the farm industry by allowing inhumane methods to persist on the grounds they are common practice for farmers and agricultural colleges.

They cited other practices including the starvation of chickens in order to boost egg production, the permanent confinement of pigs in cages so small they cannot turn around, debeaking of fowl and tail-docking in which most of a cow's tail is amputated to make milking easier.

Nancy Costello Miller, an attorney for the state, said standards of care that many people would find unacceptable for pets are normal in the farm industry, and sometimes, as in debeaking, are necessary to protect animals from each other or to safeguard the health of the flock or herd.

"We have to accept that these animals are being raised for human purposes," she told the court.

A decision by the three-judge panel is not expected for months.

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