Farm Animal Welfare

Statement of Belief -- Factory Farming (Intensive Husbandry Practices)

The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals believes that farm animals are creatures of intrinsic value, complexity and dignity.  The MSPCA further believes that the billions of animals raised each year in the United States for food, clothing, and other products are entitled to live their lives free of unnecessary pain, suffering and stress, as well as to a humane death.

While the MSPCA recognizes the need to find economic and efficient means of raising livestock, the Society condemns those practices--many of which are associated with intensive confinement systems--that cause needless pain, suffering and stress to the animals involved. 

Included are such practices as the use of crates and cages that either totally isolate individual animals from others of their species or crowd many animals uncomfortably together in order to save space and increase handling efficiency.  Also included are the manipulation of diet in ways that interfere with the animal's good health, handling animals in stressful or injurious ways, surgeries performed without appropriate use of anesthesia, surgeries performed on animals solely to prevent injuries resulting from confinement-induced stress, and selective breeding practices that produce characteristics that increase animal suffering.  

The MSPCA believes, instead, that good animal husbandry should be based on humane stewardship of livestock.  The Society believes the humane ethic should be applied to all farm animals in the following ways:  

A. Housing                   
The MSPCA believes that animals in any livestock management system should be kept in a safe and comfortable environment.  They should have access to shelter from extremes of weather; protection from predators; adequately controlled indoor temperature, ventilation and light; a clean and sanitary environment; protection from equipment failure and fire; and housing and grouping appropriate to their behavioral and social needs. 

The MSPCA believes that animals should have sufficient freedom of movement for major parts of their lives.  At these times, they should not be prevented from turning around, grooming themselves, standing up, lying down, or stretching their limbs without difficulty. 

The MSPCA believes that all livestock should be provided with a clean and comfortable ground or flooring surface and/or appropriate bedding to avoid stress and injury to their feet and legs.

The Society believes that confinement systems such as "veal crates," "farrowing crates," and "battery cages" designed for mass production of meat and eggs are cruel and inhumane to the animals they house.  The MSPCA believes such confinement systems restrict movement to such an extreme as to frustrate many of the most basic physical, behavioral and social needs of these animals. 

The Society has no objection to the use of electric fencing to contain livestock.  Properly installed and maintained, it is effective and humane.

B. Feeding
The MSPCA believes that diets fed to farm animals should be designed to maintain the animal in good health during all stages of its life.  The Society is opposed to the practice of force-feeding healthy animals and believes that all animals should have regular access to appropriate fresh food and water throughout their lives.

In addition, the MSPCA has serious concerns about the large amounts of antibiotics, hormones and other drugs that are used to promote growth and/or inhibit the diseases caused by confinement-induced stress or diet-induced malnutrition. 

C. Handling
The MSPCA believes that all farm animals should be treated humanely by workers trained to understand the behavior patterns of the animals in their care.  All animals should be inspected frequently to minimize risk of prolonged unnoticed suffering resulting from disease or injury.

When moving animals from one place to another, care should be taken to prevent stress, suffering and injury through the use of appropriate chutes, ramps and enclosures.  When it is necessary to stimulate livestock to move, the Society accepts the use of devices such as flexible noisemakers or of properly constructed and maintained electric prods.  Use of these devices should always be tempered by humane concern for the animals involved.  Use of inappropriate tools such as pitchforks or misuse of other tools is inhumane. 

D. Adaptive Surgery
The MSPCA supports adaptive surgery when it is in the best interests of the animal and when it is done at an appropriate age and through procedures designed to minimize pain and discomfort.  Surgery should be performed only by persons with the skills and materials necessary to execute it properly.  Anesthesia should be employed whenever appropriate to minimize pain and discomfort. 

The MSPCA believes that surgical mutilation of farm animals when used exclusively to prevent injuries resulting from confinement-induced stress is cruel and inhumane.  

For purposes of identification, the Society encourages the use of non-invasive, non-permanent means of identification such as neck chains and leg bands.  The Society also accepts the use of ear tags, tattoos, and properly-inserted microchips.  The MSPCA adamantly opposes hot branding of cattle or any other species for any reason and accepts the use of freeze branding as an acceptable alternative. 

E. Breeding          
The MSPCA recognizes the role of selective breeding in the raising of farm animals.  However, the Society strongly opposes selective breeding for characteristics that result in pain or suffering to the animal.

Therefore, the MSPCA will:
  1. Generate public awareness of current intensive farming
     practices and the problems caused by them;
  2. Enforce existing laws on behalf of farm animals;
  3. Inform the public of the need for stronger laws
     relating to the raising of farm animals;
  4. Promote alternatives to intensive confinement systems;
  5. Provide information to consumers concerning sources of
     non-factory-farmed food.