The political campaign against Question 3 – an HSUS-backed measure to combat extreme confinement of animals on factory farms — is struggling with a crisis of credibility.
First, the opponents are arguing that a measure to give animals raised for food a little room to move is a “tax” on consumers that will “hurt people in poverty” – presumably because being decent to animals, they say, is going to increase production costs. The reality is, in a state rich with non-profits that fight hunger and poverty, there’s not a single anti-poverty group in Massachusetts that has come out against Question 3. The central argument of our opponents is a political concoction, without any legitimate group providing support for it. In fact, numerous published studies from the egg industry shows that getting hens out of cages would cost the farmer only an extra penny or two an egg. After it made a cage-free pledge in September 2015, McDonald’s said it anticipates that it won’t raise prices for its food products with eggs even a cent
What’s more, the ad campaign featuring the “anti-poverty” argument, as exposed today by Boston Globe columnist Scot Lehigh, is funded by Big Ag interests centered in Indiana and Iowa. These groups have no history of aiding anti-poverty campaigns (but the factory farms that they defend have a record of polluting the environment by maintaining massive, open-air manure lagoons and making life miserable for people in rural communities and driving down the property values for homeowners), yet they have trotted out these tired and false arguments for years in an attempt to justify their mass exploitation of animals. All but $100 of the $300,000 or so that the “No on Question 3” committee has raised comes from anti-animal-welfare zealot and agribusiness operator, Forrest Lucas of Indiana, and the Iowa-based National Pork Producers Council. There’s a lonely single donation of $100 from a single Massachusetts resident, and that Ben Franklin came courtesy of the opponents’ lawyer.
This isn’t a one-time intervention by Forrest Lucas. He has an anti-animal welfare Super PAC and he is also the sole funder of a group he created called Protect the Harvest, which opposes any and all animal welfare reforms. Among other things, he has put hundreds of thousands of dollars into a losing fight against a Missouri ballot measure to crack down on puppy mills, he has fought against bills and ballot measures to make malicious animal cruelty a felony, and he advocates for the trophy hunting of elephants, leopards, and other rare species.
It’s amazing to find that there’s really someone who cares not a whit about the lives of animals and fights any and all efforts to prevent cruelty to them. In particular, he’s zealous about defending confinement agriculture. Somehow, until The HSUS and other like-minded groups articulated the case against the practice, it became acceptable to imprison animals in cages and crates barely larger than their bodies – a production system that is at odds with any common-sense notion of animal welfare or care, because it immobilizes animals for the duration of their lives.
In recent years, we’ve convinced 10 states to ban many of these extreme confinement practices. And we’ve also worked with more than 200 food retailers – from McDonald’s to Walmart to Kroger – to change their procurement practices and to phase out purchasing eggs and other animal products from factory farms that confine the animals so severely.
Question 3 is about dealing with the outliers – creating a minimum standard for all farmers and all retailers in Massachusetts to observe. For animals used for food production, this is the least we can do. I’m confident Massachusetts voters will see through the smokescreen created by the most extreme and retrograde voices in Big Agriculture and will vote for safer food that comes from more humanely treated animals.