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Massachusetts delays hog welfare law for second time

Massachusetts officials will wait for a Supreme Court ruling on California’s Proposition 12 animal welfare rules before enforcing similar regulations that would ban the sale of pork from out-of-state farms that do not give hogs enough room to lie down, stand up, fully extend their legs, or turn around freely.

The delay, announced by the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), was part of a federal court order to resolve a lawsuit filed last week by restaurant associations and the pork group.

The Massachusetts rules, which were scheduled to take effect on Monday, were the result of a statewide referendum, Question 3, approved by a 3-to-1 vote in 2016.

State lawmakers decided last December to delay implementation of Question 3 for hogs by eight months and to reduce the amount of room guaranteed for egg-laying hens to one square foot. One legislator said the changes would assure the availability of “essential foods.”

The Supreme Court agreed in March to hear a challenge to Prop 12 by the NPPC and the American Farm Bureau Federation. They say California’s animal welfare laws pose an unconstitutional burden on farmers and consumers nationwide.

The NPPC said Massachusetts’ rules would have blocked the transport of pork through the state, “jeopardizing an estimated $2 billion worth of pork that moves into neighboring New England states.”

Under the court order, Massachusetts would not enforce rules against the sale of noncompliant pork until 30 days after a Supreme Court decision on Prop 12, possibly late this year.

“This agreement is limited to only the pork sales provision of Q3, and producers located in Massachusetts are still required to comply with the in-state housing standards,” said the pork group.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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