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Humane Farming Association Sues MA Attorney General Over Anti-Cruelty Law

The law requires that each laying hen be provided no less than 1.5 square feet of floor space

Published on January 12, 2021

Today the Humane Farming Association (HFA) – a national farm-animal protection organization with 270,000 members – filed suit against Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey for her failure to promulgate regulations to improve conditions for egg-laying hens as required by state law. The suit is intended to compel the AG to promulgate such regulations as required by the farm-animal protection ballot measure approved by Massachusetts voters in 2016.

Known as “Question 3,” the ballot measure established minimum space requirements for pigs, calves, and, primarily, laying hens. Most importantly, the law requires that each laying hen be provided no less than 1.5 square feet of floor space. The measure was overwhelmingly approved by 77 percent of voters.

Specifically, the law required the Attorney General to adopt implementing regulations by January 1, 2020. However, Healey has neither issued nor even proposed to issue the legally-mandated regulations, which is in flagrant violation of her legal duties. Instead, Healey’s office is working with lobbyists, including those from the egg industry, to pass legislation that would reduce the allotted space requirement provided to hens to a mere one square foot per bird, which would allow the egg industry to crowd fifty percent more hens into a given space. The AG’s office is also seeking to shift the Attorney General’s regulatory responsibilities to the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources.

“It’s outrageous to see that this animal-protection measure, which was overwhelmingly approved by voters, is now languishing while the AG supports legislation that will drastically weaken the measure,” said Humane Farming Association National Director Bradley Miller. “The AG’s failure to promulgate the regulations and her support of legislation that will reduce the amount of space provided to hens are contrary to the will of Massachusetts voters and harmful to farm animals,” said Miller.

On October 14, 2020, HFA (through its Boston counsel, Brown Rudnick LLP) sent a letter to Attorney General Healey demanding that the required regulations be promulgated in short order. The letter stated that if no action was taken on this matter by November 14, HFA would initiate enforcement litigation in state court. To date, no action has been taken; hence, the organization is filing suit.

Environmental Reporter