In a particularly divisive election season, it’s fortunate we have a measure on the ballot that unites people across political parties. Voting YES on Question 3 will reduce animal abuse and help ensure that all Massachusetts residents have access to safe, affordable food.
The treatment of animals in today’s industrial factory farms is nightmarish. For example, a female pig used for breeding is typically confined to a cage so small it’s nearly the size of her body, preventing her from even turning around. These crates cause pigs, who are more intelligent than dogs, to suffer both mentally and physically. Out of pure frustration, a confined pig will bite the metal bars of her cage until her gums bleed. Eventually, realizing she’s never going to get out, she gives up, and just stares ahead with no hope, with what veterinarians called “learned helplessness.” There’s no way to describe this callous treatment other than abusive.
If it is approved by voters, Question 3 prevents cruelty while also increasing food safety. A few years ago, a Massachusetts girl was hospitalized due to a massive Salmonella outbreak linked to two Midwest egg factories owned by Jack DeCoster. The federal government estimates that the outbreak sickened as many as 56,000 Americans. Although DeCoster was eventually sentenced to jail time, earlier this year The Humane Society of the United States exposed horrendous cruelty and food safety risks at another DeCoster-affiliated facility that has been selling eggs to New England consumers. The investigation documented hens forced to live and lay eggs for human consumption on top of the rotting carcasses of their dead cage-mates. Poisoned rodents were also found in the birds’ cages.
Because of the stressful, filthy conditions in these facilities, disease can spread like wildfire. More than a dozen studies show that cage facilities have higher rates of Salmonella than cage-free farms. Salmonella is the leading cause of food poisoning-related deaths in the U.S., which is why the Center for Food Safety, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and Consumer Federation of America joined over 100 Massachusetts farmers and more than 500 Massachusetts veterinarians in endorsing a YES vote on Question 3.
Beyond the opportunity to limit illness and fiscal impacts from foodborne sickness like healthcare costs, Question 3 makes clear economic sense to producers and consumers, alike. The egg industry’s own studies find it would cost only about a penny per egg to convert from cramming birds into cages to cage-free systems. Cost-conscious companies like Dollar Tree, Dollar General, Walmart, Dunkin Donuts, Taco Bell and McDonald’s have already announced that they’re switching to 100 percent cage-free eggs. McDonald’s has said the change to cage-free won’t cause it to raise prices a single cent. And a study from Iowa State University found pork producers can actually save money by switching to more humane cage-free housing systems for pigs.
Question 3 will help ensure that all Massachusetts families have access to safe, affordable, responsibly-produced food. Please join our state’s residents in the refreshingly non-partisan vote of “YES” on this commonsense measure on Tuesday.
Stephanie Harris is the Massachusetts state director for The Humane Society of the United States and is the director for the Massachusetts-based “YES! on Question 3” campaign.