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A pig’s desperate flight from its cage tugs at an activist’s sensibilities

At last month’s debate on Question 3, it was good to see both sides agree that the practice of immobilizing animals in small cages on factory farms is on the way out (“Strong opinions in debate over cage-free eggs,” Metro, Sept. 21). That “is not what’s at issue here,” said Question 3’s opponent, Bill Bell. “That has been decided by the consumers.”

Consumer demand has indeed led to major cage-free commitments from food suppliers such as Walmart and McDonald’s that will spare millions of animals from a life of cage confinement. But legislation, already enacted in 10 US states and the entire European Union, has also played an important role in the shift from cages.

Unfortunately, some in the industry continue to lag behind.

I recently worked for a short time at a pig-breeding operation in Pennsylvania, where thousands of mature female pigs were kept shoulder to shoulder in rows of cages barely larger than their own bodies. Pigs are smart, social, and expressive, with a range of personalities much like dogs, but years of total privation had broken them. Many compulsively gnawed at the bars of their crates, banged their heads, and showed other unmistakable signs of anguish and frustration.


One morning, I found a sow who had figured out how to unhinge the door of her crate with her mouth. By the time I discovered her, she had already released two of her neighbors. As I approached, they bounded down the narrow pathway, past hundreds and hundreds of cages, running for the first and only time in their lives.

For them, I’m urging a “yes” vote on Question 3.

Cody Carlson
Brooklyn, N.Y.

The writer is a staff attorney and former undercover investigator for Mercy For Animals.