As Question 3 passes, UMass students react with mixed emotions


(Jake Wasdin/Flickr)

AMHERST — A ballot referendum aimed at creating more humane conditions for farm animals across Massachusetts, known as Question 3, officially passed shortly after 11 p.m. Tuesday night.

The new law sets minimum size requirements for farm animal containment and will prevent the sale of eggs, veal or pork raised in spaces that prevent the animal from lying down, standing up, extending its limbs or turning around.

According to the Boston Globe, Question 3 passed with about 78 percent of Massachusetts voting yes on the measure.

The town of Amherst voted against the referendum by a final tally of 2,740, against 1,575 in favor.

The measure is planned to take effect on January 1, 2020, where the violation would result in a civil fine up to $1,000.

Massachusetts will be the first state to outlaw the sale of products from animals raised in this particular way, setting a precedent for other states.

The passing of the new law, however, has been met with mixed reviews from members of the Amherst community, which has long prided itself on farming sustainability.  

“I wasn’t surprised at all because who would vote against the cruelty of animals,” said Hannah Miller, a member of the University of Massachusetts Amherst student farm. Miller was previously undecided on the referendum but ultimately voted no on the measure.

But according to Miller, the issue is far more nuanced than that.

“The passing of this law changes nothing in Massachusetts since there’s only one farm that doesn’t already follow the provisions provided in the measure. It’s more useless regulations, tax, more money on paperwork, and imposing regulations on small, local farms,” said Miller.

Miller is referencing Wendell, Massachusetts’ Diemand Farm which has 3,000 hens laying eggs in cages. At the time the cage system was set up, the farm considered it the best way to maintain the health of the birds and the cleanliness of the eggs.

While Miller feels like the measure won’t have much of an impact for the state of Massachusetts at the time, she does believe it could have implications down the line that could hurt small, local farmers.

“It’s a useless law with a conning title. It’s frustrating seeing the disconnect between farmers and consumers,” said Miller. “People have the power to control their food systems just by what they buy. It’s just that people would rather pass a law than actually look into how to actually do something to really implement these healthier food systems.”

Jacob Phillips, a senior English major, said he has “a mixed feeling about the result.”

“I voted yes because I wanted better animal rights, but I know a lot of people had the reaction that this would put stress on smaller farms rather than bigger corporate farms. That takes the joy out of it a little bit,” he said.

Still, other voters remain optimistic and happy that their vote contributed to a cause they stood for.

“It’s a historic advancement for animal welfare,” said Vice President of Policy at the Humane Society of the United States Paul Shapiro in an interview with the Boston Globe.

“I voted yes on the measure and I’m really happy about it. I feel like it was common sense anyway, but now there will be regulations to manage it,” said freshman psychology major Niamh Quinn-Tierney.

Vandna Sampson, a freshman sociology and biology double-major, was also happy to see that the referendum passed.

“I voted yes because I want the animals to live in a more humane environment, and I’m very happy it passed because I think the mistreatment of animals is disgusting,” said Sampson. “I’m happy to see people taking a stand for these issues.”

Email Caeli at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @caeli_chesin.

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