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The Argument

Should Massachusetts require cage-free and crate-free egg and meat products?


Chuck Currie

Owner, Freedom Food Farm, Raynham

Chuck Currie
Chuck Curriehandout

I got into farming as a way to make a difference in the world. Access to healthy food is a foundation for building a better community, and healthy food can only come from healthy plants and animals. This is why I implore my fellow citizens to vote “yes” to end the extreme confinement of farm animals that results in both unnecessary suffering and food that is less safe to eat.

I learned about the horrors of factory farming in a sustainable-agriculture course in college. Tens of thousands of animals are raised indoors in huge, crowded barns, often tightly confined in cages and unable to carry out their natural behaviors. Once I found out about these standard industry practices, I promised myself I would only eat meat from farms with animal welfare standards.


I wanted to ensure that the chickens I ate were able to flap their wings, dust-bathe, forage, and live the life a chicken should, out on pasture. I wanted to be sure the pigs I ate had the opportunity to walk around, socialize with other pigs, and root in the ground. No animal deserves to be kept confined to a cage for its entire life.

I think the Act to Prevent Cruelty to Animals is a great way for Massachusetts consumers to let it be known that we care about healthy food and the welfare of livestock on farms. The initiative is a modest one, requiring only that all farm animals have enough room to turn around and extend their limbs. Every day I watch my pigs, chickens, and calves run, root, roll, play, and stretch their legs. I cannot imagine immobilizing these active, social animals in tiny cages for their entire lives. I am not alone. Farmers across Massachusetts respect their animals’ basic need to move and would never consider raising them in cages. These types of systems are cruel and unnecessary and should not be legal.


Massachusetts citizens have the chance to ensure a better life for farm animals and a proud future for Massachusetts farms. I hope you will join me in supporting the Act to Prevent Cruelty to Animals.


Bill Bell

General manager, New England Brown Egg Council

Bill Bell
Bill Bellhandout

The upcoming referendum is not about the welfare of laying hens. Animal welfare groups and egg farmers have already resolved that issue. There is scientific agreement on how hens are best housed. The proposed referendum is a radical departure from that agreement.

The real issue on the ballot is whether we want a well-heeled group from Washington, D.C., dictating how much Massachusetts families pay for their food.

Massachusetts has wonderful, caring farmers. There are no veal crates in Massachusetts, there are no sow gestation stalls, and there is only one egg farm with hens in cages. This family farm, in Western Massachusetts, is a model of cleanliness, excellent management, and having far more space for the hens than would be required by the referendum.

The other commercial egg farms in Massachusetts are cage-free, but opposed to the referendum. Why? Because they believe that consumers -- and farmers -- should have a choice. There is a vast array of supermarkets, restaurants, and food service retailers that already obtain eggs from cage-free farms or have pledged to switch to cage-free suppliers in the future. This is how change takes place in America.


The originators of the referendum ballot will of course say: “Yes, we know Massachusetts has only good farms, but this referendum is directed at the bad guys, the egg producers in other states whose hens we believe are poorly treated. Let’s ban their eggs from the Commonwealth!”

In other words, “Let’s use the ultra-liberal voters of Massachusetts to advance our national vegetarian vision.”

What they’re not telling you is the cost to your food budget. Professor Harry Kaiser at Cornell’s School of Applied Economics recently determined that California’s initiative on eggs, similar to that proposed in Massachusetts, has raised the price of eggs there by 49 cents per dozen, or $70 a year for a family of five. For low-income families which typically consume more eggs, the burden is higher.

In addition, the referendum would increase the burden to Massachusetts taxpayers, in terms of school meals, food at public institutions, and food programs for special groups.

Right now, you have a choice about eggs. Do you really want a mandate?

Last week’s Argument: Will Braintree benefit from its tax agreement for the development project at Weymouth Landing?

Yes: 47 percent (25 votes)

No: 53 percent (28 votes)

As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. He can be reached at laidler@globe.com.