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Lawsuit Filed to Stop Ballot Initiative Seeking to Restrict Livestock Production


Massachusetts farmer James Dunn joined with local anti-poverty activist Diane Sullivan in a lawsuit asking the courts to toss a proposed 2016 animal rights ballot measure. The proposed initiative petition (no. 15-11) would create strict new regulations on farmers and place new restrictions on interstate commerce. Experts warn that the proposed rules will actually harm animals while driving up the cost of food for Massachusetts families. Diane Sullivan, the policy director for a Boston-based advocacy organization, and herself one of more than 450,000 Massachusetts households who participates in the federally-funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps), warns of the unintended consequences hidden in the ballot measure.

“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,” she noted. “As demonstrated in California, this ballot measure will absolutely cause an across the board increase the cost of eggs, perhaps the most accessible and affordable source of protein available to us all.”

“Already, farmers and grocers across the state provide consumers options regarding where their food comes from and how it was raised. The choices are vast and ever-growing, from cage-free to free-range, from grass-fed to pasture-raised; the list goes on. The choices are there – and when people have the means and the desire to choose a more expensive food option, they can. Our neighbors struggling to pay the rent do not have that same luxury.  We simply cannot afford to continue to devalue their already diminished purchasing power by furthering this initiative.”

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. California passed a similar law in 2008 and, 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, like those required by Initiative Petition No. 15-11, lead to higher instances of bone breaks, cannibalism, and death in egg-laying hens; while endangering the environment and harming worker safety.

“This Massachusetts ballot proposal is the expanded version of the regressive food tax increase imposed in California, government-directed consumer price gouging if you will.  Official Government reports yesterday show that wholesale egg prices in California remain over twice the prices of eggs in the rest of our country despite false claims by food tax proponents that it is but a penny an egg,” concluded Brian Klippenstein, Executive Director of Protect The Harvest Action Fund which is supporting the lawsuit. “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 every day by bullying low-income powerless consumers out of the market.”

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 (which demands a petition deal with only one main subject). The single subject rule exists in nearly every state in the country to protect citizens from answering multiple questions with one “yes” or “no” vote.  If found unconstitutional, the initiative will not be placed on the November 2016 ballot.

Source: Protect the Harvest