FRAMINGHAM – Proponents of Question 3, the ballot question that would prohibit pigs, calves and chickens from being housed in confined spaces, say the measure will prevent farm animal cruelty and help protect consumers from food-borne ailments.
Question 3 on the Nov. 8 election ballot seeks to prohibit breeding pigs, calves raised for veal, and egg-laying hens from being housed in confined spaces that prevent the animals from laying down, standing up, extending their limbs or turning around. The measure would also forbid the sale of eggs, veal or pork from an animal confined in those spaces.
“It’s really that modest,” said Stephanie Harris, state director of the Humane Society of the United States and Yes on 3’s campaign director. “The goal is to prevent farm animal cruelty.”
During a meeting with the Daily News editorial board Tuesday, Harris and Kara Holmquist, director of advocacy for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said that while most farmers in the state do not restrict their animals to confined spaces, some do. There is currently no law in the state on how farm animals can be confined.
“Most Massachusetts farmers are doing the right thing,” said Harris.
The measure would require farmers to shift breeding pigs from gestation crates, which Harris described as a “coffin,” to group housing where they can move about more freely and be around other pigs. There is also a lower mortality rate in pigs raised in a group housing setting, said Harris.
Veal calves at some farms are placed in a small crate and chained at the neck, said Harris.
“All they can do is stand or lie down uncomfortably,” she said.
In some cases, the calves experience severe muscle atrophy in the cramped living conditions and cannot even walk to their own slaughter. “We don’t believe it’s humane,” said Holmquist.
The initiative is also a food safety issue, proponents of the law say, because salmonella bacteria is more prevalent in eggs that come from hens that are caged, said Holmquist.
Ten states across the country, including California, Maine and Arizona, have enacted similar laws. Harris said two years after California implemented the law, the state’s egg costs are on par with or below the national average.
If approved, the law would go into effect in 2022. Farmers who do not abide by the conditions of the law would be subject to a $1,000 fine per violation. Harris said passage of the measure would not mean creation of a a bureaucracy for enforcement. Violations would be investigated based on individual complaints, she said.
The campaign has received significant support throughout the state, as Harris said more than 500 veterinarians, 100 farmers and many food safety groups have spoken out in favor of the ballot question.
“There’s tremendous support,” said Harris.
Jeff Malachowski can be reached at 508-490-7466 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JmalachowskiMW.