Imagine living your entire life in a box smaller than a phone booth. That is the sad reality for many animals in factory farms today, animals that are raised in cages and pens so small, they often cannot even turn around. Massachusetts has a history of protecting its animals and being a leader on animal welfare issues, but we are starting to fall behind.
Voters will soon have the opportunity to regain the state’s mantle of leadership in the areas of animal welfare, public health, and the environment. A 2016 ballot initiative, the Prevention of Farm Cruelty Act, would require that eggs, veal, and pork products produced or sold in Massachusetts come from animals that were allowed enough space to stand up, turn around, lie down and extend their limbs.
Nine other states and numerous countries have already restricted these types of inhumane farming practices, with more to come. If Massachusetts does not follow suit, we risk becoming a haven for factory farms and all of the societal problems that come with them. By requiring that products sold here be made in a more humane manner, we would be taking a leadership role on this issue and would help bring an end to the brutal living conditions of millions of animals in factory farms.
The inhumane methods that the act prohibits are not part of traditional farming.
While these factory farming practices can increase profit margins for the business owners implementing them, the health and environmental costs of these operations are borne by the rest of us. Animals that are packed extremely closely together are typically less healthy than those raised using traditional animal husbandry practices. Disease spreads quickly when animals are so densely housed. To combat illness, the animals are often fed large quantities of antibiotics, which then make it into the food we eat. Furthermore, the land that these operations are built on cannot sustain the amount of waste generated by them, and this can lead to pollution and other significant environmental problems.
History will judge the horrific treatment of animals in factory farms harshly. The basic protections provided by the Prevention of Farm Cruelty Act are long overdue. Massachusetts voters should relish the opportunity that they now have to help end the worst abuses of factory farming and prevent the inhumane confinement of farm animals.
We now are being given the opportunity to protect the health of consumers and the environment and to speak for the millions of farm animals that cannot speak for themselves.
Joseph D. Eisenstadt, a local attorney now in private practice, was formerly a Massachusetts assistant attorney general assigned to the environmental crimes unit.