Massachusetts to vote on stall-restricted livestock

By Ed Zwirn

- Last updated on GMT

Massachusetts is to vote on animal welfare issues
Massachusetts is to vote on animal welfare issues

Related tags U.s. state Livestock Pork

Voters in Massachusetts are poised to decide on Tuesday [November 8] whether the US state should ban the sale of pork products or veal from animals that cannot turn around or stretch their limbs within their cages. 

The provision would also ban the sale of pork and veal products produced by animals confined in stalls and cages which severely limit their movements. If approved, the new rules would go into effect in 2022. They are based on the provisions of a 2008 ballot measure approved by voters in California.

Voters are expected to approve the ballot proposal by a wide margin, 65% to 22%, according to a recent poll.

But, one local trade group opposed to the referendum question claimed to GlobalMeatNews that opinion is running in favour of the initiative at least in part because those opposed are not bothering to fight back.

“We oppose this for a number of reasons, but mainly because it is not needed,”​ said Brad Mitchell, deputy executive director of the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation. He also claimed the new law would be illegal anyway, because it would block meat trades across America: “It’s also unconstitutional under the interstate commerce clause of the US Constitution.”​ Moreover, Mitchell said Massachusetts welfare practices are already good: “We are concerned that Massachusetts consumers will be misled into assuming that these practices are common here. Some proponents of Question 3 have stated publicly that they are common on Massachusetts farms,​” the group said in a statement issued ahead of the vote.

The federation and other groups concede that they have been greatly outspent in the referendum campaign by Citizens for Farm Animal Protection, the coalition in favour of the proposal, but did not consider it cost-effective to wage a battle: “Referendum campaigns are expensive, and we have only one member that would be affected by this,​” the federation stated.

“We think it is bad policy to let voters determine farm policy,”​ says Mitchell. “We don’t do this with medical policy or energy policy,”​ he added, echoing his group’s call for creation of an expert-staffed Livestock Care and Standards Board in the state as an alternative.

The group said that approval of the referendum would raise the consumer price of pork and veal in the state. The proposal would also affect battery hens – although its focus is mainly on egg laying birds. To oppose the measure, the federation using claims that the proposed protections would raise the cost of eggs in the state by USD0.50 per dozen, or about USD60 per year for the average family.

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