Caging Animals on Factory Farms Is Bad for the Environment

Confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) confine enormous numbers of egg-laying hens, breeding pigs, and veal calves in cages so small they can barely move. They produce enormous and extremely concentrated amounts of waste that pollute water and air and threaten public health in neighboring communities.

Voting Yes on Ballot Question 3 would protect our rivers, air, and health as well as reduce animal suffering.


Traditional farmers balance the number of animals with the land’s capacity to absorb the nutrients from the manure. It replenishes the soil and fertilizes the crops.
In contrast to traditional farmers, CAFOs often do not recycle nutrients. It is expensive to transport enormous amounts of manure for disposal so it is often over-applied to nearby fields or stored in giant lagoons that emit harmful gases and spill or leach into waterways.

The waste from CAFOs endangers neighboring communities. The fecal matter contains pathogens and heavy metals as well as large amounts of nitrogen and phosphorous. It leaches into rivers and bays causing deadly algal blooms.


Animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions, measured in CO2-equivalent, than all forms of transportation combined, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.


In California’s San Bernardino County, Hoover Ranch converted its caged-hen operation into a cage-free operation to alleviate some of the problems the facility caused for local residents, including intense odors and swarms of flies. A local news article noted some of the benefits of converting to a cage-free operation:
“In a cage- free environment, the chickens would live in the existing chicken houses, but on the ground instead of in the current set-up of double-stacked cages. Wet manure in the existing operation allows flies to breed. In the cage-free setting, foraging chickens will consume the fly larvae, according to a city staff report.”  This conversion to a cage-free facility “should mean 60,000 fewer chickens than the 192,000 now in the houses.” By eliminating the use of battery cages in egg CAFOs, fewer birds are confined in existing sheds, resulting in less concentrated waste at each operation.


The Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production found that the factory farming system “often poses unacceptable risks to public health, the environment and the welfare of the animals themselves.”

Question 3 would give animals space to stand up, turn around and extend their limbs. It would be an important step towards reducing the environmental harm (as well as animal suffering) caused by CAFOs. Many environmental and sustainability groups such as the MA Sierra Club, the MA Climate Action Network and Green Newton as well as Farms and Farmers,  Veterinary Professionals, Community Leaders and Businesse have endorsed Question 3.

For more information on the food safety, public health and economic benefits of Question 3 go to

By Ellie Goldberg,Green Newton Advisory Board Member