Preventing cruelty to animals is right

Posted

To the Editor:

Like many Rhode Islanders, I’m no stranger to hard work. I’ve been a farmer, small business owner, artist and art teacher, and as a mom, I work hard every day to create a brighter world for my daughters. It’s been a particular kind of joy raising them on my farm in Foster. Teaching my girls values of compassion and respect is easy when we live and breathe them every day in the way we treat our animals. Together we ensure that our animals live a life worth living.

Raising my girls with these values is just one part of the equation. That’s why for five years I have been working to make Rhode Island a kinder state by supporting legislation to protect our farm animals in our state. In 2012 I testified in favor of Representative Pat Serpa’s successful bill that ended the cruel practice of confining mother pigs and calves in cages so small they can’t even turn around. Since 2014, I’ve worked to see this same basic freedom of movement granted to egg-laying hens. This year, Rep. Serpa has introduced House Bill 6023, and I’m proud to speak out once again in the hopes that hens will finally be freed from lives of cramped misery in barren, wire cages.

Most farmers I know pride themselves on humane principles and responsible stewardship of their animals. I would never dream of forcing any of my animals—whether it be my dogs, cats, or farm animals—into cages so small they are robbed of their ability to move around and engage in their natural behaviors. The sad reality, however, is that tens of thousands of hens in Rhode Island are packed in cages at this very moment.

It’s appalling that 40,000 hens in our state are crammed into tiny wire cages where they are given less space than the size of a sheet of paper to live their entire lives. Barely able to move, these hens suffer from brittle bones, weakened immune systems, and extreme physical and mental stress. I know firsthand how intelligent chickens are; forcing them into cages too small to even take a few steps or spread their wings is just wrong.

H. 6023 is a commonsense measure that would simply give the same freedom of movement that mother pigs and calves have in our state to hens.

Caged conditions are not only cruel, but they are also linked to food safety issues. As a mom, I’m concerned by the fact that scientific study after study has shown that caged-systems have a higher risk of Salmonella than cage-free barns. The Center for Food Safety endorses this bill for this very reason.

Due to concerns about food safety and animal cruelty, consumer enthusiasm for humanely-raised products is at an all-time high. Over 200 major food companies (including McDonald’s, Walmart, Shaw’s, and Stop & Shop) have already responded by committing to cage-free policies. My own customers demand nothing less than the assurance that the products they buy come from animals who were treated with decency. It’s economically prudent for farmers to put these basic standards into practice as more companies and the public call for better treatment of animals.

As a mom and farmer, I whole-heartedly support H. 6023. Preventing cruelty to animals is the right thing to do, and this bill gives us a chance to create a kinder, safer food supply for our children. Please join me and my family in asking our representatives to vote yes on H. 6023.  

Denise Melucci

Foster

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