Animal Welfare Victory in Massachusetts Just Changed U.S. Livestock Production

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Animal Welfare Victory in Massachusetts Just Changed U.S. Livestock Production

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In a move that may have implications for livestock production across the country, Massachusetts voters last week approved a significant animal welfare measure banning the production or sale of foods derived from animals who aren’t provided ample room to move around.

The measure, known as Question 3, passed with an overwhelming majority of voters in favor of the law that will prohibit Massachusetts’s farmers from confining egg-laying hens, breeding pigs, and veal calves. Common practices for the tens of millions of livestock animals raised for food in the U.S. every year include keeping the animals in cages or stalls so small they cannot turn around, lie down, stand up, or full extend limbs or wings.

Set to take effect in 2022, the measure will also prohibit animal-based foods from elsewhere in the country to be sold in the state if they were produced using the banned practices.

“It’s a historic advancement for animal welfare,” Paul Shapiro, vice president of policy at the Humane Society of the United States, the main backer of the measure, told the Boston Globe.

“To have an entire state declare that cruelty to farm animals is such a pressing matter that it is establishing a retail standard to ensure that animals are able to at least engage in basic movement really sends a powerful signal,” he said.

The animal welfare measure received significant support from many Massachusetts family farms, but others were critical of the bill, particularly the ability to enforce the law for out-of-state producers selling in the state.

There was also criticism over fears that the measure would spike the costs of animal products—some estimates put the increase on eggs at $1 or more per dozen, while other estimates suggest it’s more likely to be about a penny per egg, or 12 cents per dozen.

“But there’s no way to know how much prices will go up until it goes into effect,” reports the Globe.

Like the groundswell of producers switching to cage-free egg production across the country, Question 3 could help move national livestock production toward more humane practices.

“This is part of a global shift in the direction towards cage-free,” Stephanie Harris, Yes on 3's campaign director and head of the Massachusetts Humane Society, told WBUR. “The Massachusetts initiative will codify a lot of changes that are already underway. With so many food companies pledging to go cage-free, it’s the way of the future.”

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