, Newburyport, MA

May 2, 2014

Ban the use of gestation crates

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

Several summers ago Lisa Colby, of Colby Farms in Newbury, graciously allowed me onto her property so that I could walk amongst the pigs housed there. I observed pigs enjoying mud baths, piglets trailing their mothers, and pigs napping in the shade of a tree. So I was shocked and disappointed to read that Ms. Colby plans to alter her “humane farming model” by implementing cruel gestation crates for mother pigs (April 26, “Farm cage ban bill draws opposing views”).

Pigs are amongst the most intelligent animals who share our world. Highly social and curious, they engage in complex tasks, form elaborate, cooperative social groups and feel fear, pain and stress. Lisa Colby knows this. Some years ago, The Daily News published a heart-warming article about a Colby Farm pig who had so charmed Ms. Colby that she could not bear to see the animal slaughtered.

When Lisa Colby allowed me to walk amongst her pigs, she explained that she could not accompany me because such interaction made the knowledge that her pigs would be slaughtered harder for her bear. Gestation crates would allow her to further remove herself from recognizing these animals as individuals, while increasing their torment and suffering.

Gestation crates are one of the cruelest farm animal confinements. Mother pigs are immobilized during their entire pregnancies — unable to stand, stretch or turn around in these 2-foot steel enclosures. It becomes an endless cycle for the poor animal as she is repeatedly inseminated, locked alive in her metal coffin.

Nine states consider gestation crates to be a form of farm animal cruelty. The entire European Union has banned gestation crates. Even industrial animal agricultural giant Smithfield Foods has phased out the use of these cruel confinements, and McDonald’s has banned the use of gestation crates from its supply chain. A recommendation from the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, which included the former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, called for a phase-out of gestation crates.

Simply because the use of these cruel devices is not yet widespread in Massachusetts is no assurance that they will not become the inhumane norm, as evident by Colby’s desire to implement them. I sincerely hope that Lisa Colby will reconsider. I appreciate Colby Farms’ place in our community and often stop there for produce. With its pastoral setting, two personable goats and a variety of fowl walking freely about, each visit is a delightful experience.

However, implementing gestation crates at Colby Farms would scar the bucolic landscape of Newbury along with our humanity.

Fortunately, a coalition of family farmers, veterinarians and consumers and have come together to rally for a bill (H.1456/S.741) that would ban gestation crates, veal crates (used for young calves) and battery cages of egg-laying hens. I urge Representative Mirra and Senator Tarr to support this humane legislation.

Kathleen Downey