PLAINFIELD — As a cattle and hog farmer in Massachusetts, I enthusiastically support Question 3, "The Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act," on this November's ballot. This measure aligns with our state's proud heritage of responsible family farming and is long overdue.
We're a nation of extremes in our treatment of animals. The ones with whom we have a relationship are treated as well as children. But the animals we eat, the ones which we only meet in a styrofoam package, whose lives we know nothing about, are often treated terribly.
On industrial "factory farms," pigs, calves and chickens are locked in cages so small they can hardly move. These farm animals suffer every minute of every day, unable to walk or do virtually anything that comes naturally to them.
Thankfully there are many responsible farmers who know that animals thrive when we provide them with living conditions that match their needs and natural behaviors. At Manda Farms in Plainfield, many of our customers buy our products specifically because we raise our animals as humanely as possible.
These values are reflected in the modest requirements of this state ballot measure Nov. 8, which would ensure that certain farm animals be provided room to stand up, lie down, turn around, and extend their limbs, and that certain food products sold in Massachusetts meet these minimal standards in their production.
As a mother and a female farmer I am very concerned that our children be raised with the awareness that animals are feeling, sentient, and yes, emotional beings who suffer the same sorts of physical and mental difficulties which plague humans deprived of physical activity, rest and space, and a natural environment.
One of the best ways to teach our children is by the example of the food they eat. Through this initiative we can assure them that the animals raised to provide our food are treated with basic decency while alive.
Humanely raised meats and eggs are two of the fastest growing markets in the food business. It is encouraging that McDonald's, Walmart, Kroger, and more than 200 other major food retailers have pledged to work with their larger suppliers to improve the treatment of the animals destined for their plates and shelves.
It's economically prudent for farmers to put these minimal standards into practice as more commercial entities, restaurants, food safety experts, and grocery stores unite with animal welfare organizations and the public in demanding these reforms. In many cases better treatment also saves farmers money on veterinary bills.
Question 3 aligns with the values of the vast majority of our voters and furthers the use of better practices in the U.S. meat and egg industries. When consumers and farmers join forces we can institute the change which will restore us, our animals, and our environment to a state of health — and moral progress — to be admired and emulated.
I encourage all voters to support responsible agriculture and animal welfare by voting "Yes" on Question 3.
Anna Hanchett is the co-owner of Manda Farm in Plainfield.