End extreme confinement of farm animals


As Massachusetts veterinarians, we take seriously our duty to advocate for the welfare of animals and protect them from cruelty. That’s why we are proud to endorse Question 3, the ballot measure entitled “An Act to Prevent Cruelty to Farm Animals.”

The Act to Prevent Cruelty to Farm Animals will address one of the most pressing animal welfare issues of our time. The vast majority of eggs and pork currently sold in Massachusetts comes from facilities that confine farm animals in a way that greatly restricts their mobility. Most hens used for eggs are crammed into cages so small they are unable to even extend their wings. Each bird has less space than an iPad. Pigs used for breeding, and calves raised for veal, are often locked into crates too narrow to even turn around. Massachusetts consumers want protection from these inhumane and substandard products.

Science confirms what commonsense tells us: animals need to be able to move. Extreme confinement causes severe physical problems and psychological distress. Responsible farmers across Massachusetts and beyond have shown this cruelty is completely unnecessary for the production of affordable food.

Question 3 is straightforward: Voting yes will ensure that veal calves, breeding pigs, and egg-laying hens have enough room to stand up, lie down, turn around and extend their limbs. It will also ensure that meat and eggs sold in Massachusetts meet this modest animal welfare standard.

Already, more than two hundred major food retailers, including Walmart, McDonalds and Dunkin’ Donuts, have pledged to go cage free. Ten other states have passed legislation prohibiting some of the worst forms of confinement. And at the urging of the European Union Scientific Veterinary Committee, the entire EU has passed legislation to end intensive confinement in cages. We now have the opportunity to enact similar reforms here.

To date, more than 520 Massachusetts veterinarians have joined with the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association in endorsing this measure, along with many veterinary technicians, veterinary medical students, and entire veterinary clinics. Veterinarians across the country have long advocated for passage of commonsense legislation nearly identical to this measure. In 2008, more than 700 California veterinarians and the California Veterinary Medical Association supported the passage of Proposition 2, after which the Massachusetts ballot measure is modeled. In 2012, more than 100 New Jersey veterinarians and the New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association supported legislation to ban inhumane crates for pigs in their state. We now have that same opportunity here in Massachusetts. Since last September, volunteers helped gather 170,000 signatures -- more than double the number required -- to qualify Question 3 for the ballot.

Massachusetts residents have a strong history of supporting efforts to protect and improve animal welfare. As Massachusetts veterinarians, we look forward to joining with our colleagues, clients and community members by voting "Yes" on Question 3 on November 8.

-- Ann Marie Greenleaf, DVM, DACVECC, of Lynnfield, is chief of staff of the MSPCA-Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston; and Edward Schettino, DVM, PhD, MBA, of Framingham is vice president of Animal Welfare and Veterinary Services of the Animal Rescue League of Boston.