Massachusetts Ballot Initiative Seeks to Curb Farm Animal Confinement

Measure for 2016 Ballot Would Prohibit Inhumane Cages and Crates
August 19, 2015

Boston, Mass.—Citizens for Farm Animal Protection has announced a new ballot initiative in Massachusetts to curb extreme confinement and lifelong immobilization of animals at industrial-style factory farms. The coalition aims to collect more than 90,000 signatures in order to qualify this animal welfare proposal for the 2016 statewide ballot.

Among others, the coalition includes the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Animal Rescue League of Boston, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, The Humane Society of the United States, United Farm Workers, Center for Food Safety, family farmers, veterinarians and public health professionals.

The measure would ensure that certain farm animals are able to stand up, lie down, turn around and extend their limbs by phasing out the extreme confinement of breeding pigs, veal calves and egg-laying hens.

Ten states have already passed laws to address these kinds of inhumane practices, and nearly 100 major food retailers—including McDonald’s and Walmart—are working with suppliers to make similar reforms in their food supply chains. 

The measure, in practical terms, means that certain animals – specifically veal calves, breeding pigs and egg-laying hens – will not spend their lives in cages barely larger than their bodies.

In addition to requiring that Massachusetts producers meet these modest requirements, the measure would ensure that whole eggs and whole, uncooked cuts of veal and pork sold in the Commonwealth are also compliant.

In the veal industry, calves are often confined to crates so narrow, the young animals cannot even turn around. Tethered by their necks, many are virtually immobilized for their entire 16-week long lives. Most female pigs used for breeding in the pork industry are confined to gestation crates, which are concrete and metal cages so small the pregnant pigs cannot take even one step in any direction.

This measure has won support from food safety advocates, because intensively confined animals suffer from weakened immune systems, which allow dangerous bacteria to proliferate. For example, numerous studies show that egg operations confining hens in small battery cages have higher rates of Salmonella, the leading cause of food poisoning-related death in the United States.

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, said: “The biggest names in the food retail sector are already moving to buy their pork and eggs from farmers raising animals outside of small cages, and by approving this measure, Massachusetts residents will bring along the outliers and assure more humane treatment of animals raised for food.”

Carter Luke, president and CEO of MSPCA-Angell, said: “This ballot question fits squarely within the MSPCA-Angell’s animal welfare mission as it relates to farm animals: to end the intensive confinement practices that cause needless pain, suffering and stress to the animals involved. It’s unacceptable for egg-laying hens, breeding pigs and veal calves to be prevented from lying down, standing up, extending their limbs or turning around freely. That’s why we’re calling for compliance with this modest animal welfare standard.”

Matt Bershadker, president and CEO of the ASPCA, said: “So many animal confinement practices on farms are unacceptably cruel, preventing animals from fully extending their limbs or even turning around freely. No animal should have to suffer like that. We support this ballot initiative that rejects some of the cruelest farming practices used today.”

Mary Nee, president of the Animal Rescue League of Boston, said: “The cruel confinement of farm animals is inhumane and also threatens the health and safety of Massachusetts residents through increased risk of foodborne illness. When there’s an effort to improve the protection and treatment of animals – whether they are companion, working or farm animals – the Animal Rescue League of Boston is there to help.”