Massachusetts cage-free egg question gains momentum

by Erica Shaffer
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Animal welfare groups are close to meeting a signature requirement for their petition.
Animal welfare advocates are close to meeting a signature requirement that would put the question of livestock confinement in Massachusetts on the November ballot.

BOSTON – Voters in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts may be voting on the future of livestock confinement in the fall. A proposed referendum that will likely make the November ballot would ban the production and sale of eggs from hens and meat from pigs and calves confined to small cages or crates. If approved, the law would go into force beginning in 2022.

Proponents of the referendum include a broad coalition of animal welfare organizations called Citizens for Farm Animal Protection that includes the Humane Society of the United States and the MSPCA.

The measure is similar to one passed by voters in California. In 2008, voters there passed Proposition 2, which bars California farmers from using some animal production methods commonly used in the industry. For example, pigs, calves and egg-laying hens must be raised with enough space to allow them lie down, turn around and fully extend their limbs. State lawmakers later expanded the law to ban the sale of eggs in California of eggs from hens that were not raised in compliance with its animal welfare standards.

Several states challenged California’s Proposition 2 in federal court, but a US District Court judge dismissed the lawsuit in December 2014 on grounds the states failed to prove the law caused genuine harm to their citizens and not just possible future damage to some egg producers.

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