ARL’s collaborative advocacy efforts aid in bill’s passage
This week, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed legislation to help improve the lives of millions of egg-laying hens across the Commonwealth, but also helps avert a possible egg shortage in the state had the bill not passed in the Legislature.
The Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) collaboratively advocated for passage of the bill.
“With passage of S. 2603, the Massachusetts legislature strengthened the existing law, passed at the ballot as Question 3 in 2016, to now mandate cage-free housing with critical behavioral enrichments for the birds, such as nest boxes, perches, and dust-bathing and scratching areas,” a joint statement from ARL, HSUS, MSPCA and the Animal Legal Defense Fund said. “Importantly, the legislature also expanded application of Question 3’s protections to hens raised for liquid eggs – a move that will protect at least two million more hens each year.”
ARL would like to thank Governor Baker as well as the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Dan Cahill and Sen. Jason Lewis; Rep. Carolyn Dykema and Sen. Becca Rausch, chairs of the Joint Committee on the Environment and Natural Resources; Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Ronald Mariano, as well as all members of the conference committee.
Question 3 Background
In 2016, Massachusetts voters approved Question 3, An Act to Prevent Cruelty to Farm Animals, by a margin of over 77%.
At the time, this was the strongest farm animal protection law in not just the United States, but the world.
The initiative petition “prohibit[ed] any farm owner or operator from knowingly confining any breeding pig, calf raised for veal, or egg-laying hen in a way that prevents the animal from lying down, standing up, fully extending its limbs, or turning around freely”.
This impacted not just animals raised in Massachusetts, but any whole products sold in the Commonwealth.
After Massachusetts voters chose to keep farm animals out of cruel confinement, other states followed. California, Michigan, Oregon, Rhode Island, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and Washington all adopted similar standards, but by this point a different style of aviary was more common for hens. The standard in these states was slightly different than that passed by Massachusetts, and has resulted in Massachusetts being an outlier.
The ballot question passed by voters in 2016 required 1.5 square foot per hen.
This assumed a flat system, without vertical space.
The new standard passed by the legislature adds an additional humane standard: 1.0 square feet per hen only when there is unfettered access to vertical space.
The commonly used aviaries of this size are similar to bookshelves, and allow hens to explore their natural behaviors with perches.
The additions also require nesting boxes for the hens to lay their eggs, and enrichments, such as scratching and dust bathing.
The updates are an improvement to animal welfare in the commonwealth, and are in line with the goals to end cruel confinement of many animals.
The law goes a step further including not only whole eggs, but also liquid and frozen eggs sold in the state, dramatically increasing the number of hens who benefit from these requirements.
Again, these requirements do not just apply to animals raised in the state, but to any whole products sold in the state, meaning that farms located outside of Massachusetts must comply with this in order to sell their products in the state come January 2022.
ARL supported the 2016 ballot question because it would substantially improve conditions for many farm animals, and we support this update for the same reason.
It is true that this effort is supported by both the proponents and opponents of Question 3—this is because this additional standard mirrors the humane standard adopted in other states.
Massachusetts helped pave the way for farm animals to not be cruelly confined, and these upgrades will improve the lives of millions of animals.