Conference committee to peck its way through hen welfare bill

Boston Statehouse
Chickens farm animal_405974

BOSTON (SHNS) – Legislation reforming standards for housing egg-laying hens, pigs, and veal calves is heading to a six-member panel Wednesday after the House and Senate remained at odds over the implementation date for pig-related measures and certain enforcement provisions.

The House appointed Reps. Carolyn Dykema, Daniel Cahill, and Norman Orrall while the Senate selected Sens. Jason Lewis, Becca Rausch, and Bruce Tarr to negotiate differences between the two versions (H 4194/S 2481).

The two bills seek to update a 2016 ballot law that set standards for the amount of space required for the animals. Over the past five years, standards in the industry have changed. Now producers say Massachusetts is not in line with other states and that they are at risk of not being able to sell goods into the state.

Both versions of the legislation allow producers to keep hens in cages with 1 square foot of floor space if they have “unfettered” access to vertical aviaries instead of 1.5 square feet. The bills diverge on the implementation of standards for raising pigs, with the House proposing to delay them until 2023. The portion of the law the House is looking to delay says a business owner cannot sell whole pork meat in the state if they know it comes from a “covered animal that was confined in a cruel manner, or is the meat of the immediate offspring of a covered animal that was confined in a cruel manner.” The House, unlike the Senate, also voted to provide the Department of Agricultural Resources the power to refer violations to the attorney general who can hand out a fine of up to $1,000. The Senate passed the bill in June and the House passed the bill by a 156-1 vote earlier this month.

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