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Question 3 delayed in Massachusetts

By: Sydney Sheffield

A district judge in the state of Massachusetts has delayed the implementation of the Act to Prevent Cruelty in Farm Animals (Question 3) until August 23, 2023, originally set to go into effect on August 15, 2022. Question 3 was a 2016 ballot initiative that prohibits any farm owner or operator from knowingly confining any breeding pig, calf raised for veal, or egg-laying hen in a way that prevents the animal from lying down, standing up, fully extending its limbs, or turning around freely.

Question 3 has been the subject of two legal challenges. The first, attempting to block it from the ballot for procedural reasons, was ruled against by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in July 2016. The second was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court by a coalition of agricultural states, claiming Question 3’s provisions violated the dormant Commerce Clause; the Court declined to hear the case in January 2019.

“This is a significant outcome as the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) continues to push to preserve the rights of America’s pig farmers to raise hogs in the way that is best for their animals and maintains a reliable supply of pork for consumers,” said Terry Wolters, NPPC president. “The impact of Question 3 would have been particularly harmful to those in surrounding New England states who did not have a vote in the 2016 Massachusetts referendum, nor any notice of the dramatic steps that activists had taken trying to force these harmful initiatives on voters in other states.”

The delay comes because of the Supreme Court’s recent decision on California’s Proposition 12. A previous agreement was reached between the Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General and a coalition led by NPPC, that the law should be put on hold at least until 30 days after the U.S. Supreme Court issues a ruling in the California Proposition 12 lawsuit brought by NPPC and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF). According to NPPC, Question 3 would not allow the transshipment of whole pork through the state jeopardizing an estimated $2 billion worth of pork that moves into neighboring New England states.

“Extending the current stay on implementation of Q3 until August 23 allows Massachusetts to work with NPPC and its coalition partners to address a number of remaining issues under Q3 prior to implementation.  This includes, most importantly, allowing the transshipment of pork through Massachusetts so that it can continue to reach other New England states as well as provide guidance to the industry and supply chain to ensure a smooth transition as Q3 is implemented,” said NPPC Chief Legal Strategist Michael Formica.