Activists in Massachusetts are proposing a ballot initiative to improve the lives of farm animals in the state and beyond. The referendum, if approved by voters this November, would ban confinement methods so severe that they don't give the animals freedom to move: battery cages for chickens, gestation crates for pigs, and veal crates for calves. It would also ban the sale of eggs, pork, and veal from animals subjected to such treatment, whether or not they were produced in the state. The ban would take effect starting in 2022.
Opponents of the ban are doing everything in their power to stop it. Agricultural group Protect the Harvest Action Fund has already sued to challenge Attorney General Maura Healey's approval of the referendum language. It contends that the proposal violates the Massachusetts Constitution, which requires clauses to be "related... or mutually dependent," because production and sale constitute two separate issues. Others have questioned whether its impact on interstate commerce is permitted under the U.S. Constitution.
Whether or not the referendum goes forward, it serves as a stark reminder of the cruelty farm animals endure. According to the National Pork Producers Council, 80% of pork producers nationwide use gestation crates, where pigs are confined for months at a time without the ability to walk or turn around. Most chickens in battery cages get only 67 square inches of space: about the size of an iPad. Even if the ballot initiative manages to ban cages, it would still require only 1.5 square feet per chicken: only a little more room than inside a milk crate. Though legislation such as this would vastly improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of animals, the steps it can take are small and slow. People that don't want to wait for change can cut back on their meat and egg consumption today.
Written by Cameron Meyer Shorb