At the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA), offering shelter to homeless or abused dogs and cats is just a part of our work. We care for more than 600 farm animals each year and provide services for more than 12,000 animals in total. And, as our name implies, we strive to prevent cruelty before it ever takes place. We operate humane education programs in the state, but we also need strong laws on the books. That's why the MSPCA is a proud supporter of Question 3. This measure would close a gap in Massachusetts law, which allows farm animals to be kept in cages so small they can hardly move for months at a time.
Much to the dismay of responsible farmers and animal advocates, corporate "factory farms" keep animals in cages so small the animals are virtually immobile. Mother pigs, as well as calves used for veal, are often forced to live in cages barely larger than their bodies, unable to even turn around. Similarly, chickens used for eggs have less space than the dimensions of an iPad. Question 3 would simply require that eggs or meat produced or sold here come from animals who have enough space to extend their limbs, stand up, and turn around.
Just like the dogs and cats at our shelter, chickens, pigs, and calves are intelligent, social beings. We can't excuse their horrible treatment because people view some of them as food and not pets.
Every animal deserves to be treated with respect and compassion. Right now, this isn't the case. More than 500 Massachusetts veterinarians endorse Question 3 because the science is clear: extreme confinement causes enormous suffering to animals.
While preventing animal cruelty is reason enough to support Question 3, the measure will also make our food safer. Because animals are unable to move and are constantly stressed, their immune systems are quickly decimated. And because they are packed so tightly together in rows of cages, disease spreads easily. More than a dozen studies have determined that egg facilities that cage animals are more likely to harbor Salmonella, bacteria that can be deadly in humans. The industry's own publication, World Poultry, states "Salmonella thrives in cage housing." At the MSPCA, we're proud to stand with more than 100 responsible Massachusetts farmers who support Question 3. They know that protecting consumers and animals is key to restoring trust in our food system.
Question 3 will also make safer food more affordable to everyone. Right now egg companies charge a premium to consumers able to buy cage-free eggs and meat, even though the actual difference in production costs is negligible. Once cage-free is standard, prices will drop significantly. All Massachusetts families deserve access to humanely-produced, reasonably-priced, safe food.
Massachusetts voters are divided on many issues right now, but this is an issue where everyone can come together. Question 3 is a modest and commonsense measure to protect some of our society's most vulnerable. Animals are counting on all of us to vote "yes" on November 8.
Michael Keiley is the Director of the Noble Family Animal Care and Adoption Center at the MSPCA at Nevins Farm in Methuen.