Producers win case

Nov 11, 2008
Producers win case

Animal (from page 1) cattle tails, a method used to maintain udder health and cleanliness, primarily in dairy operations. The court ruled the practice is without significant scien tific merit to warrant what it deemed an otherwise in humane procedure.

“We do not suggest that these procedures cannot be carried out in a manner that is, objectively, humane. In the absence of sufficient guidance in the regulations to ensure that the practices are being performed in a manner that is humane, however, they should not be included within the blanket permission,” the court ruled.

“Moreover, by including these practices in the sub sections of the regulations that authorize them to be performed, the department has created an unworkable enforcement scheme. That is to say, there is no standard against which to judge whether a particular indi vidual is ‘knowledgeable’ or whether a method is ‘sani tary’ in the context of an agricultural setting or whether the manner in which the procedure is being performed constitutes a ‘way as to minimize pain.’” However, the court did leave the door open to ad ditional challenges for live stock producers in the state by remanding the rest of the management practices back to the state department of agriculture in order to better define and evaluate its defi nition of routine practices.

“Our decision, therefore, should not be understood to be a ban on the continua tion of any specific practice, but merely a recognition that some of the standards (which were originated to meet the law’s criteria that all practices be humane) have fallen short,” Hoens wrote in her decision.

That portion of the ruling prompted animal rights ac tivists in the state to claim a partial victory.

“The biggest victory of the decision is that it questioned routine husbandry practic es,” New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NJSPCA) spokes man Matthew Stanton said following the ruling. “Just because these practices have been done for 100 years doesn’t make them okay.” According to court records, the state Agricultural De partment has been required since 1996 to consult the Rut gers University New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station to evaluate how nec essary and humane common husbandry practices are. Stanton said NJSPCA plans to sit down with the agricultural department to “have a rational conversa tion” about the ruling and to clarify the jurisdiction of the agency.

However, officials with the New Jersey Farm Bu reau (NJFB) said the court’s ruling was ample endorse ment of the Department of Agriculture’s authority and expertise in establishing guidelines for humane han dling practices.

“The Supreme Court up held the authority of the department to define those practices that are to be con sidered humane,” said NJFB President Richard Nieuwen huis. “Despite this challenge to those rules, the court validated the department’s research and findings with only one exception.”

Nieuwenhuis acknowl edged that the door had been opened for further hu mane regulations when the court remanded the rules back to the agriculture de partment for review, but expressed confidence that they would not create ad ditional burdens on produc ers in the state.

“We believe in the profes sionalism and expertise of the Department of Agricul ture. The public should also be confident in its ability to address the remaining con cerns of the court,” he said. — John Robinson, WLJ Editor