When voters go to the polls this November, they will have the opportunity to do more than just elect the officials who will represent them. In many states, they will be able to determine the future welfare of farm animals, and Massachusetts is one of those states.
Voters will decide whether or not to pass a comprehensive law that protects farm animals from extreme confinement. According to recent polls, it seems as though it will be passed with flying colors.
The ballot covers the practice of severely constraining animals for their whole lives, like veal crates for baby calves, gestation crates for mother pigs, and battery cages for egg-laying hens.
As of yet, 11 states have passed laws banning at least one, if not more, of these practices. If the Massachusetts law goes into play, all three would be banned.
“There are enormous stakes in the November elections, and that is also true for animals,” explained Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. “Our society is increasingly hostile to animal cruelty, and voters have the opportunity to strengthen our laws and shield animals from abuse. Animal cruelty is not acceptable, and I am confident that voters will approve social reforms that will advance the cause of animal protection.”
Every year, about 9 billion animals are killed for food in the United States, but only one decades-old federal law is responsible for their humane treatment. And that law only covers the exact moment livestock are killed. It’s also totally exempt of chickens and other animals, which account for more than 90% of the animals slaughtered.
It is totally legal for female pigs, who are some of the most discerning, emotionally intelligent, and socially competent animals on the planet, to be continuously impregnated and imprisoned in tiny crates for the majority of their lives.
Thankfully, the past decade has seen various reforms to improve conditions of these animals, including America’s biggest veal and pork producers being forced to phase out such inhumane constraints. And, over the last two years, every large grocery store and fast-food chain in the U.S. has vowed to use only cage-free eggs. Stephanie Harris, Yes on 3’s campaign director and head of the Massachusetts Humane Society, explained that hundreds of companies, including McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts, have pledged to opt for only cage-free eggs over the next decade.
“This is part of a global shift in the direction towards cage-free,” she said, “and 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.”
Such corporate reforms are voluntary, however, making the Massachusetts law even more important, as it is needed to make such humane practices mandatory.
“In Massachusetts there are more than 3,000 hens that are kept in these type of conditions right now, and so this is about giving those hens enough space,” explained Harris. “And it’s about protecting the Massachusetts consumers from unsafe, substandard and inhumane eggs and meat products.”
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