Question 3: The Act to Prevent Cruelty to Farm Animals

By Secretaria de Agricultura e Abastecimento do Estado de São Paulo Agriculturasp [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Secretaria de Agricultura e Abastecimento do Estado de São Paulo Agriculturasp [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

You may have heard that a coalition of local and national animal protection charities in Massachusetts have launched a ballot measure to prevent cruelty to farm animals. Question 3, a ballot measure in Massachusetts on November 8, 2016, The Act to Prevent Cruelty to Farm Animals. If passed, Question 3 will prevent farm animals from being crammed into cages so small they can’t even turn around or extend their limbs, as well as ensure that certain food items sold in the Commonwealth are compliant with these modest standards.

Major companies like Walmart and McDonald’s are already making similar improvements. McDonald’s rival Burger King was one of the first major fast-food chains to pledge to use cage-free eggs, promising to have its supply chain converted by 2017, and companies like Unilever, General Mills and Sara Lee are working to use such eggs exclusively.

Marion Gross, McDonald’s Senior Vice President for Supply Chain Management  noted:

We are a big purchaser of eggs in the U.S. and in Canada, and we have the scale behind us to be able to do these kinds of things. It’s not always easy, but it’s a challenge we can work through.

The Compass Group, Sodexo and Aramark, three large food service suppliers that the Humane Society of the United States estimates buy roughly one billion eggs a year in total, also have said they will use only cage-free eggs. And this year, Walmart established new guidelines for suppliers that, among other things, indicated it would show preference to those using cage-free hen housing.

Question 3 would ensure that farm animals are given enough space to stand up, turn around, and extend their limbs. It would also establish a retail standard so that meat and eggs sold in the state meet this modest requirement. Farmers and workers that have already made this switch attest to better working conditions.

This measure presents us with a critical opportunity to protect creation and aid responsible family farmers in Massachusetts.  Among others, the coalition includes the Massachusetts SPCA, the Humane Society of the US, United Farm Workers, Center for Food Safety, Zoo New England, Animal Rescue League of Boston, as well as hundreds of family farmers, veterinarians, faith leaders and public health professionals. You can see the list of endorsees here.

It is cruel and inhumane to confine animals in cages so small they are unable to turn around or stretch their limbs. Practices like keeping veal calves chained by the neck, pigs in metal cages barely larger than their bodies, and hens in less space than a letter-sized sheet of paper are surely in violation of the laws of tzaar baalei chayim. The Act to Prevent Cruelty to Farm Animals embodies Jewish values of compassion for animals.

Confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) pack enormous numbers of animals in relatively small areas by confining egg-laying hens, breeding pigs, and veal calves in cages so restrictive they are rendered virtually immobile. This produces extremely concentrated amounts of waste that wreak havoc on the environment and public health in surrounding communities. Voting Yes on Question 3 would help reduce the worst environmental impacts of CAFOs.

A meta-analysis conducted by Pennsylvania State University’s Department of Animal Science and published by the American Association of Avian Pathologists in 2015 [PDF] concluded that cage housing for laying hens increases the risk of Salmonella contamination.

To the claim that this will all result in an increase in prices, egg industry studies show that it costs only 1-2 cents more per egg to use cage-free methods. Over 200 of the top grocery and restaurant companies have already committed to switching to 100% cage-free eggs. McDonald’s has publicly stated that the conversion won’t cause the company to raise its prices even a penny.

An avian influenza outbreak was the primary cause of the temporary rise in California egg prices in 2015. The disease led producers to kill millions of laying hens across the country, dramatically restricting supply. Less than two years after the implementation of California’s similar hen protection law, prices have dropped below those seen before passage. In fact, the Kirkpatrick Foundation released a report in the summer of 2016 [PDF] that found egg prices in California were below the national average.

Opportunities to support passing this measure include

  • Committing to vote YES on 3!
  • Encourage your Rabbi or Jewish communal leader to add their name to the growing list of religious leaders who support this historic measure.

Thank you for consideration and compassion!

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