Ma. Question 3 Controversy



Photo courtesy of ASPCA

Jessica Gavin, Contributing Editor

Question 3 was a proposal regarding the minimum containment area for farm animals that has passed. Starting on January 1, 2022, pigs, calves and hens will legally have to be held in an area that allows them to stand up, lie down, turn around freely, and fully extend their limbs. Additionally, the bill will create a fine for businesses that knowingly sell pork, veal or eggs from animals in holdings that are not up to code, even if the farm is not in Massachusetts.

Those who argued for the passage of the bill believe that housing animals in small confines is inhumane and should be changed. Activists want to prevent animals that are used for eggs and slaughter against unnecessary suffering and assert that this bill is very progressive and backs up the single, decades-old law that currently discerns animals’ humane treatment at slaughter. Supporters of the bill include the MSPCA, the Animal Rescue League of Boston, over 500 veterinarians, and dozens of family farmers. Those opposing the bill state that these regulations will drive up prices of produce, chiefly with cage free eggs. In response, supporters of the law counter that McDonalds is a strong, successful example, as they have pledged to go completely cage free without raising prices at all.

There are temporary exceptions to the new rule, such as holding cells for transportation, fairs, medical research and veterinary exams that would allow farmers to carry out these specific practices without infringement.

However, those against the proposal argue that the vast majority of Massachusetts farms do not practice these methods, and that this would drive up the price of animal goods. Also, there is a concern that these new regulations would force some small farms out of business if they could not afford to get up to code. Only one farm currently uses cages for chickens that are to small, but all other farms are in compliance with every other aspect of the proposal. Dissenters also argue that the commercials and publications in favor of the bill showed misleading photographs of situations that are not occurring in Mass., such as gestation crates for pigs, which are used to prevent large sows from crushing or trampling their litters of significantly smaller piglets.

Question 3 passed with a strong 78% approval rate and 22% disapproval rate, which means the law will take effect in 2022, mandating a $1,000 fine for each violation of the law. This law is the first step in modernizing and optimizing farming for the future, but there are still further steps to take to ensure that animals are treated humanely in healthy facilities.