The Fate of Millions of Animals Will Be Determined on Election Day

This election night, while most Americans will be focusing on places like Ohio and Florida, voters in Massachusetts will get to determine the fate of countless animals.

Question 3 on Massachusetts’ ballot would simply require that baby veal calves, breeding pigs in the pork industry and egg-laying hens have enough space to stand up, lie down, turn around and extend their limbs, and that suppliers of veal, pork and eggs into the state’s food supply follow this modest standard.

It’s really that basic, yet it would represent a major positive change for many of the most abused animals in agribusiness.

There are thousands of egg-laying hens in Massachusetts who, at this moment, are confined in barren cages so small they can’t even spread their wings. In the industry, it is common for each hen to have less space than an iPad to live for her entire life.

The Massachusetts market still allows a baby veal calf to be removed from his mother shortly after birth and spend his life chained by the neck inside a cage so small he can’t even turn around. He’s trapped in this torturous condition for four months. His legs are so weak after this depravation that he’s unable to walk to his own slaughter.

Also still legal is artificially inseminating a breeding pig and forcing her to live inside cages barely larger than her own body. She’s essentially forced to live in a metal coffin, driven mad by the confinement. After a few weeks, she gives up, experiencing what veterinarians called “learned helplessness.” That’s her life virtually every day for four years

Fortunately, voting YES on Question 3 would eliminate these cruelties. And science tells us that what’s better for animals is often better for food safety. Removing hens from these cruel cages reduces the chances of Salmonella, a leading food-borne illness. That’s one of the reasons the Center for Food Safety and Consumer Federation of America endorse a YES vote on Question 3.

A YES vote also aligns with the common ethics of family farmers who believe animals deserve better lives. With more than 100 Massachusetts family farmers supporting Question 3, along with the United Farm Workers, the measure is a chance for the family farm model to win out against the factory-like conditions that are bad for animals and people alike.

With Question 3 costing consumers—according to egg industry and Iowa State University studies—mere pennies, it’s no wonder polls show it’s ahead by a wide margin. But passage is not self-executing. 

Well-funded factory farm interests are combatting this modest measure, including an out-of-state oil and cattle tycoon who’s fought against puppy mill reforms. He is joined by the Iowa-based National Pork Producers Council, which lobbies to keep breeding sows locked in cages, as well as a Nebraska attorney who previously compared poor families to raccoons scavenging through trash cans.

While some of the leading egg industry groups aren’t actively campaigning against the measure—since many producers are already moving away from cage confinement—the fringe group National Association of Egg Farmers, which opposes any laws regarding the treatment of hens, is combatting the measure.

Massachusetts voters have a unique opportunity to stand up to big agribusiness interests by standing with The Humane Society of the United States, ASPCA, Massachusetts SPCA and more than 500 Massachusetts veterinarians who endorse the YES on 3 vote. People know that all animals—including farm animals—deserve protection from cruelty. A YES vote on Question 3 will make 2016’s Election Day a historic moment for reasons well beyond who next occupies the White House. 


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