S. 2603 (formerly 2481): An Act to upgrade hen welfare and establish uniform cage-free standards
MSPCA Position: Support
Sponsors: Senator Jason Lewis and Representative Dan Cahill
Status: Passed by the Senate on June 24, 2021. Passed by the House on October 6, 2021. Committee on conference appointed (Lewis-Rausch-Tarr-Dykema-Cahill-Orrall) and conference committee report accepted December 20, 2021. Signed by the Governor on December 22, 2021, Chapter 108 of the Acts of 2021.
This legislation upgrades conditions for egg-laying hens by mandating that they be able to engage in certain vital natural behaviors such as perching, nesting in boxes, dust bathing, and fully extending their wings. It also expands the law to cover liquid eggs, which means more than two million more hens will be protected.
In 2016, Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly passed Question 3, the Act to Prevent Cruelty to Farm Animals, which prohibits the confinement of egg-laying hens, mother pigs, and calves raised for veal in spaces that prevent them from lying down, standing up, fully extending their limbs, or turning around freely. Since then, leading retailers, producers, and other states have mandated even stronger standards in the shift to cage-free conditions for hens. The legislature has the opportunity to upgrade the 2016 law, bringing it in line with the new — stronger — welfare standards.
On December 20, the House and Senate sent the Governor a bill that would make these improvements. In addition, the final bill would require regulations to be promulgated by the Mass. Department of Agricultural Resources in consultation with the Attorney General. It also allows an extension (until summer 2022) for compliance on pork products.
In the Headlines:
Groups pushing ‘upgrade’ in farm animal law, Commonwealth Magazine. April 27, 2021.