Massachusetts farmer James Dunn and local anti-poverty activist Diane Sullivan have joined together in a lawsuit asking Massachusetts courts to toss a proposed 2016 animal rights petition. Proposed Initiative Petition No. 15-11 would create strict new regulations on farmers and place new restrictions on interstate commerce, and experts have warned that the proposed rules will actually harm animals, while driving up the cost of food for Massachusetts families.
Policy directors fear that the proposal will result in several unintended consequences that could impact the more than 450,000 Massachusetts households that currently participate in the federally-funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.
“Too often, we design and implement policies that have these unintended consequences that play out on the backs of most vulnerable neighbors, particularly low income elders and children,” said Sullivan, who is a SNAP participant herself. “As demonstrated in California, this ballot measure will absolutely cause an across the board increase to the cost of eggs, perhaps the most accessible and affordable source of protein available to us all.”
Researchers at Cornell University released a study showing that Initiative Petition No. 15-11 would drive up the cost of eggs alone by $95 million per year, while increasing the cost of pork by over $200 million. This proposition is similar to California’s Proposition 2, a law passed in 2008 that, upon its implementation in 2015, saw immediate increases in egg prices combined with shortages in eggs and foods made with eggs.
“The sad irony here is that this law will actually harm the welfare of farm animals,” explained James H. Dunn, a family farmer from Wendell, Massachusetts. “This law will require farmers to use housing that is more expensive to build and makes animals more susceptible to injury, disease, and death. The lawyers who wrote this law just don’t know anything about caring for livestock.”
A study by the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply demonstrated that cage-free systems lead to higher instances of bone-breaks, cannibalism, and death in egg-laying hens, as well as endangering the environment and harming worker safety.
“By limiting consumer choice and driving up protein prices, it is hoped by the mega-million dollar animal rights lobby that meatless Monday increasingly becomes meatless everyday by bullying low income powerless consumers out of the market,” said Brian Klippenstein, Executive Director of the Protect The Harvest Action Fund supporting the lawsuit.
The Complaint argues that the initiative petition violates Article 48 of the Massachusetts Constitution. Under Article 48, initiative petitions must be in proper form for submission to the people and conform with the single subject rule. If found unconstitutional, the initiative will not be placed on the November 2016 ballot.