BOSTON - While confining-cage techniques are virtually non-existent in Massachusetts, supporters argue that a ban would prevent large-scale factory farms that use the practices from coming into the state.
“This is about ensuring that farm animals in the state are treated humanely,” said Alexis Fox, director of the Massachusetts chapter of the Humane Society.
Farming industry representatives say a ban is unnecessary because the practice is not widespread in the state. They argue that animal rights activists are trying to impose a national agenda on the state’s small, mostly family-owned agricultural industry.
“These groups don’t want farm animals at all — their agenda is total veganism,” said Rich Bonanno, a Methuen vegetable and plant farmer and president of the Massachusetts Farm Bureau. “And it’s not like these large-scale farms are standing on the border of Massachusetts waiting to come in. These groups want the legislature to ban a practice that doesn’t exist in the state.”
The legislation, sponsored by state Sens. Jason Lewis, D-Winchester, and Robert Hedlund, R-Weymouth, is backed by a coalition of animal rights groups and dozens of lawmakers including Reps. John Keenan, D-Salem, and Rep. Ted Speliotis, D-Danvers. State lawmakers considered similar legislation in the 2011-12 session, but the bill stalled before it could be voted on.
“It’s certainly not widespread, but the reality is we really don’t know for sure that these confinement cages aren’t in use on other farms in the state,” Lewis said. “More importantly, we want to make sure these practices don’t come here in the future.”
Enforcement would be complaint-driven, he said, and the proposed ban would require that enclosures be big enough for the animals to fully extend their wings or legs, lie down, stand up and turn around. Violators would face fines of up to $1,000 and 180 days in jail.