November 9, 2016

In Massachusetts, Election Voters Also Elevated Animal Welfare

Massachusetts Vote

By Matt Bershadker

In addition to voting for President yesterday, Massachusetts residents overwhelmingly approved Question 3, implementing one of the country’s most comprehensive legal protections for farm animals. The state law requires that hens, pigs and calves raised in Massachusetts have room to turn around and extend their legs or wings. It also requires that pork, egg and veal products sold in the state come from farms that meet this welfare standard.

The significant legal victory represents more than a year’s worth of work by a coalition that included the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and other animal welfare, food safety and worker's rights groups. It was also endorsed by hundreds of Massachusetts farmers, veterinarians, businesses, local celebrities, and lawmakers. Thousands of dedicated Bay State citizens also contributed countless hours to gather signatures and make direct appeals for the campaign.

This broad commitment is a striking illustration of society’s contemporary concern for the welfare of animals raised for food, and research confirms this interest. In a recent ASPCA poll, approximately three-quarters of consumers surveyed were concerned about the welfare of animals raised for food and are paying more attention than they were five years ago to food labels indicating how those animals were raised.

The survey also revealed that 67 percent of consumers were likely to buy meat, eggs and dairy products bearing a welfare certification label with meaningful standards—even if it meant paying a higher price for those products—and 75 percent would like stores to carry a greater variety of welfare-certified meat, eggs, and dairy.

What’s truly gratifying is that this wave of support is moving major food industries to do the right thing. In the past year alone, over 100 companies—including the largest grocery retailer in the U.S.—have pledged to convert their egg suppliers to cage-free systems. Companies are also addressing the unique suffering of broiler chickens, and adopting more meaningful welfare certifications including “Animal Welfare Approved,” “Certified Humane,” and “Global Animal Partnership” (Step 2 and above).

The general public is also demanding more respect and better conditions for farm animals, advocating passionately for more humane laws and opposing dangerous and misleading "ag-gag" and "Right to Farm" amendments. You can add your own voice to this vital chorus and stay current on your own state’s farm animal legislation by signing up for our advocacy brigade

Consumers can make a difference with their purchasing power at the grocery store. The array of tools in our “Shop with Your Heart” campaign can show you what labels and products to look for, where to find them, and how to influence your supermarkets and grocery stores to carry those items. More and more, welfare-certified meat, eggs, dairy and plant-based alternatives are becoming accessible to all.

In voting “Yes” on Question 3, Massachusetts voters joined farmers, veterinarians, advocates, consumers, and many major industries in declaring that cruel farm animal confinement is barbaric and at odds with contemporary values. The victory is meaningful for all of the animals whose lives it will improve, but also for what it represents: that the public’s will to protect animals from suffering is stronger than ever.