Pigs, hens and calves in Massachusetts are about to see massive upgrades to their living quarters.

Farm animals don’t have it easy. Providing food to the U.S. and abroad can be a difficult profession, especially when you’re subjected to cramped, dirty conditions that make living in a barn or coop nearly impossible. Imagine waking up every morning, barely able to move or stretch because your house is crammed with the bodies of a dozen neighbors… Farm animals understand this all too well.

Adult chicken in a cage. (Photo Credit: The Photographer / WikiMedia Commons)

Adult chicken in a cage. (Photo Credit: The Photographer / WikiMedia Commons)

But change has appeared on the horizon. A ballot measure passed on November 8 known as Question 3 will grant roomier quarters to several thousand hens, pigs and young calves experiencing farm life in the heart of the Bay State. The move is a substantial win for animal justice, and is likely to bear nationwide repercussions.

Matt Bershadker, president and CEO of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, couldn’t be happier with the results, and says they represent a new level of human compassion.

“By supporting this unprecedented measure, Massachusetts voters joined farmers, veterinarians, advocates, consumers, and major food industry players in declaring that intensive farm animal confinement is barbaric and at odds with contemporary values,” he explains. “The victory is meaningful for all the animals whose lives it will improve, but also for what it represents: that the public’s will to protect animals from suffering is stronger than ever.”

The measure also seeks a permanent ban on pork, egg and veal items sold through companies that refuse to instate new confinement tactics. The law will apply to farms in both Massachusetts and neighboring regions looking to sell or ship their products across state lines. Establishments cannot conduct business in Massachusetts unless they adhere to the new law.

This is not the first motion of its kind. California set the grounds for the humane treatment of farm animals in 2008, when legislation expanding the living quarters of egg-laying hens was introduced. State regulators imposed a similar law in 2010 requiring improved conditions for all hens whose eggs would be sold within state borders.

Hens in battery cages in Bastos, São Paulo, Brazil. (Photo Credit: Secretaria de Agricultura e Abastecimento do Estado de São Paulo Agriculturasp)

Hens in battery cages in Bastos, São Paulo, Brazil. (Photo Credit: Secretaria de Agricultura e Abastecimento do Estado de São Paulo Agriculturasp)

Massachusetts was not without its detractors. Farm industry groups were quick to attack the ballot, arguing that present confinement practices were not inhumane. Critics also stated that the changes would likely stir dramatic hikes in egg prices, making them less accessible to low-income families. Boston Globe reporter Diane Sullivan said that the new law was merely a “regressive food tax; a social injustice that will harm those often neglected in these debates. It seems cruel for people who can afford expensive tastes to raise prices for those who struggle every day to feed their families.”

The new law will take effect in 2022. For many, it marks a joyous period in time when compassion overwhelmingly triumphed over profit and greed.

“What I find most interesting is that the ballot referendum passed with 78 percent of the vote,” says CEO of Sustainable Solutions Group Janice Neitzel. “This really speaks to consumer demand for animal proteins raised in better living conditions.”

Also examined was State Question 777. Stemming from Oklahoma legislators, the motion called for any challenged livestock regulations passed after December 31, 2014, to be overturned for not representing valid state interests. Opponents also claimed that state and local governments would be prevented from “passing laws to protect small farmers and provide reasonable regulations regarding food and water quality, environmental protections, and animal cruelty.” The proposal was defeated.

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