Chris Christie is well into his final term as governor of New Jersey. After that, people will debate his legacy, including his role in rebuilding the Garden State after it was devastated by Hurricane Sandy. Beyond that, what will people say about his integrity and morality?
The answer to that question could largely be determined by his actions over the next ten days. In that period he will either sign or veto an important animal protection bill, S.998. The legislation, which has captured nation's attention thanks to coverage from MSNBC to The Daily Show and many more, would prohibit the pork industry from confining breeding pigs in gestation crates. These metal cages, used on many factory farms, are so narrow the animals locked inside for nearly their entire lives can't even turn around.
Many issues that a governor will confront have many shades of gray with no clear right answer. Deciding whether to sign S.998 isn't one of those instances. Leading experts from Temple Grandin, Ph.D., to the New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association have denounced the use of gestation crates.
Scientists affirm what commonsense tells us: that intelligent, social animals like pigs suffer enormously when immobilized and isolated for years on end. Many develop obsessive behaviors, like waving their heads back and forth endlessly, or biting at the metal bars in front of them to the point that their gums bleed. These crates are so egregiously cruel that leading food companies like McDonald's and Burger King are instructing their pork suppliers to phase them out.
Ninety-three of New Jersey voters support this legislation. These voters know that, like our dogs and cats, pigs are able to feel pain too. But Gov. Christie is under pressure from factory farm pork producers in Iowa to veto this bill. Iowa is the nation's largest pork producer, and also a crucial state for anyone who wants to become president.
According to media reports, one pork producer was told by Christie that he would veto this bill. That's particularly strange because Gov. Christie, who portrays himself as a no-nonsense straight-shooter, has consistently refused to discuss this bill with his actual constituents in New Jersey.
Within ten days, Gov. Christie will take action on S.998, but he should realize that he's also writing his legacy which will not be soon forgotten. Will he choose principles over politics; compassion over campaign contributions? Millions of compassionate Americans eagerly await the answer.