Medford resident, former barn manager, MSPCA-Nevins Farm, Methuen
I was part of the barn program at the MSPCA’s Nevins Farm for eight years, and in that time I cared for thousands of pigs, chickens, ducks, and other poultry, as well as a variety of other farm animals, often rescued from circumstances in which they have been abused or neglected. Many arrived sick with disease or were emaciated and frightened.
The vast number of them recovered in our care and their unique personalities invariably emerged. Hens recognize their caretakers and prefer some over others. They take joy in spending time in the sun dust-bathing. Pigs thrill to the personal attention provided by staff and volunteers. These animals exhibit the same feelings of joy and longing (or sadness, frustration, and fear) as the dogs and cats with whom we share our homes. They deserve our respect and fair treatment.
I’m conscious of where I source my eggs and meat, buying only from farms meeting the highest animal welfare standards. It is unconscionable to cram animals into cages so small they cannot turn around or extend their limbs. So I implore every citizen to vote “yes” in November to implement a commonsense animal welfare reform that simply ensures that egg-laying chickens, gestating pigs, and veal calves have basic freedom of movement, and that products sold in Massachusetts meet the same standards.
The factory farming industry tells us that we cannot afford these modest safeguards for animals. However, we need not sacrifice affordability for safe and humanely raised food. It costs egg producers one to two cents per egg to move from cage to cage-free, according to a 2006 study. Moreover, a 2007 Iowa State University study found that it would be cheaper not to use cruel gestation crates for pigs. Any cost increase for these modest welfare standards are negligible, even as their implementation will dramatically decrease suffering for animals.
The MSPCA has long advocated to end practices that cause needless pain, suffering, and stress. That’s why the organization is calling for compliance with this modest animal welfare standard. Voters can stop cruelty in its tracks, by voting yes, for our own health, for the preservation of our environment, and to eliminate the worst kind of suffering endured by animals.
Beverly resident, United Independent Party candidate for state representative
I go to great lengths to live peacefully with the earth. I am a regular recycler. I try to minimize my carbon footprint. I get my electricity from 100 percent renewable sources. I get my dairy from Appleton Farms in Ipswich. I drive home from Andover to Beverly down the back roads in the summer and I pass the Paisley Farm stand in West Boxford, where I buy a dozen local eggs a week and whatever produce calls to me.
All of the above choices in my lifestyle cost me a little extra, and I believe are part of being a responsible consumer. I am aware and support that increase in cost. I would, however, never dream that I should use the power of law to force anyone else to live as I do. I have the means to pay a little more for eggs and I like having local suppliers, so I am happy to do so.
As I recall, the last dozen farm eggs cost me $6. Compare that to $2 a dozen at Market Basket. That extra $4 is a tax I choose to pay that helps support a local farmer and good treatment for his fowl.
A ballot initiative before the Commonwealth seeks to impose this tax on everyone by requiring all eggs sold in the state of Massachusetts to come from cage-free chickens. This would absolutely raise the price of eggs in the supermarket. The amount of the increase is open to debate, but everyone agrees prices of the cheapest eggs will rise. For those of us who are already paying more for cage-free eggs, this will make them slightly cheaper because of the economy of scale.
Yet for the people currently buying mass-produced eggs, this proposal represents a direct tax on them. It is a tax on the poor to subsidize the eating habits of the wealthy. Shame on us all should we ever implement such a tax on food, a necessity of life, that only affects the poor.
Lets advocate for humane farms with words, but let us not tax the poor to achieve our goals. People are currently voting with their wallets, stating which types of eggs they prefer. Let’s not suppress their vote with a ballot initiative.
Globe correspondent John Laidler solicited opinions for this exchange. He can be reached at email@example.com.