In my over 30 years at the MSPCA, I’ve witnessed the compassion of Massachusetts residents time and time again. Folks across the commonwealth will go out of their way to help animals in need, whether it’s an injured bird or a homeless dog. Not surprisingly, Massachusetts has strong laws to protect companion animals and many protections for wildlife.
But sadly we lag behind other states in protecting one of the most abused groups of animals: those raised for food. Pigs, chickens and calves suffer just like other creatures, but they are forced to endure severe deprivation for most of their lives in the intensive confinement systems used by most meat and egg operations. That’s why it’s so important that we all vote “yes” on Question 3.
Over the past few decades, corporate-controlled “factory farms” have largely pushed sustainable farmers out of business, leading to many cruel practices. For example, many pork factory farms lock female pigs in metal cages that are so narrow the animals can’t even turn around. Scientists have shown time and again that pigs are just as smart as dogs. And hens raised for egg production are confined to cages so small they can’t spread their wings. Question 3 would simply require that meat and eggs produced in or sold in Massachusetts must come from facilities that give animals enough space to stand up, lie down, turn around and extend their limbs.
This measure also protects the safety of Massachusetts families. Salmonella, one of the most dangerous and common forms of foodborne bacteria, can be deadly to children and the elderly. Numerous studies show that egg facilities that cage hens harbor more salmonella than cage-free farms. It makes sense: when animals can’t move and are packed shoulder to shoulder, their immune systems are decimated and disease spreads.
The reforms set forth in Question 3 are the right thing and come with no, or minimal impact, on consumers. In fact, the egg industry’s own studies show that this measure would only change production costs by about a penny per egg, and cost-conscious retailers like Dollar Tree, Walmart, and Taco Bell are already going 100 percent cage-free. McDonald’s is doing the same and pledges not to raise prices for consumers even a single cent. And a study from Iowa State University found that pork producers can actually save money by switching from cruel cages to more humane group pens.
We need to support the responsible farmers who are still up and running. In fact, more than 100 Massachusetts farmers have endorsed Question 3. These farmers have shown that affordable food can be produced without keeping animals in tiny, cramped cages. In addition, Question 3 is backed by United Farm Workers, because facilities that treat animals with decency are also more likely to treat their employees well. Lastly, sustainable farming is dramatically better for wildlife and the environment, which is why the Massachusetts Sierra Club endorses the “yes” vote on Question 3. Industrial factory farms continue to be one of the largest sources of air and water pollution across the U.S.
All animals deserve to be protected from cruelty, and all Massachusetts families deserve access to reasonably-priced, responsibly-produced food. Question 3 is a commonsense measure that aligns with Massachusetts values. Please vote “yes” on Question 3 this November.
Carter Luke is the President of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.