We’re coming down to the wire in Massachusetts on the first critical phase of action for our ballot initiative to phase out the extreme confinement of animals in cages or crates on factory farms. We have until November 18th to gather signatures from 95,000 registered voters to qualify this landmark anti-confinement measure in the Bay State. We can use your help.
The HSUS and a remarkable group of organizational partners launched this farm animal protection ballot initiative campaign with staff and volunteers from The HSUS, ASPCA, MSPCA, Animal Rescue League of Boston, Farm Sanctuary, Compassion in World Farming, Compassion Over Killing, Mercy for Animals, The Humane League, Zoo New England, and Animal Equality, all working diligently on the signature drive. We’ve enlisted more than a hundred Massachusetts farmers to the campaign, and their participation shows the breadth of our coalition.
It’s not too late to support the campaign. If you are a Massachusetts resident, or willing to travel there to help, you can be part of qualifying a measure to require that veal calves, breeding sows, and laying hens have enough room to turn around, stand up, lie down, and freely extend their limbs. In short, it gets these animals out of cages barely larger than their bodies, and helps hasten a future free of battery cages, gestation crates, and veal crates in the egg, pork, and veal industries.
The measure also will apply its modest anti-confinement standard to retail sales of much of the pork, eggs, and veal sold in Massachusetts, thereby protecting consumers in the state from substandard, unsafe, and inhumane products.
This ballot measure comes after more than 100 major American food retailers have already adopted corporate policies to move in this direction over the last four years, in a cascade of announcements, made jointly with The HSUS in many cases. In September, McDonald’s announced it would go completely cage-free in its egg purchases, and the company buys two billion eggs a year – four percent of the U.S. supply. In May, Walmart announced it would adopt the Five Freedoms of Farm Animal Welfare as a framework to guide its purchases of animal products. Aramark, Compass Group, and General Mills have also adopted the Five Freedoms. And the nation’s four largest food service providers – which serve tens of millions of meals each day at university and corporate cafeterias, and many other venues – have all pledged to stop selling eggs from caged hens.
The American public and the rest of the global community are waking up to animal welfare. We are at a new threshold when it comes to the treatment and status of animals. Look at the outrage over the appalling killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe, and the move by more than 40 airlines to stop shipping trophies from the Africa Big Five. Consider that Ringling Bros. earlier this year announced it would phase out its traveling elephant acts. Take the announcements from McDonald’s or Walmart on procurement. These are among the world’s largest food retailers, and if they can make this humane pledge, then the day has arrived when we can set a baseline standard for the entire food sector. No producer, and no food retailer, should take moral shortcuts and force animals to be subjected to lifelong privation and misery.
It is time to end the era of extreme confinement of farm animals, just as we are halting the era of trophy hunting of endangered and threatened species, the era of commercial whaling, and the era of legal dogfighting and cockfighting.
Yes, we’ll hear all the typical arguments from opponents about price increases and hardship for farmers. But there have always been opponents of ideas whose time has arrived. It would be best for the usual opponents of farm animal reforms – the trade associations for beef, pork, and eggs – to get on board and align their industries far more meaningfully with their customer bases. Can anyone really imagine that in a decade’s time we’ll still be immobilizing farm animals in cages for their whole lives?
The Massachusetts ballot measure doesn’t ask for a lot. It just creates a baseline standard of decency – that animals born with legs should be free to move around. That’s something that everyone in the food industry should be able to get behind.