WESTPORT, Mass (WPRI) ─ Farmers in Westport were victorious in their fight against proposed animal regulations in town.
It was a big turnout for Tuesday night’s special town meeting at the Westport High School.
Locals voted in favor of strengthening their “right-to-farm” by-laws in an effort to go against the board of health’s decision to create an animal registry.
In November 2019, the Westport Board of Health implemented a new regulation stating farm animals must be registered with the town.
Supporters said the goal was to prevent another deplorable tenant farm fiasco like the one the town dealt with back in 2016.
The regulations also mandated homeowners and renters share their contact information, the type of livestock and an estimated number of each animal they have living on their property.
That information would be shared with the town’s police and fire departments.
The overwhelming majority of voters Tuesday expressed they were against the registry, saying the 2016 animal abuse case that sparked this doesn’t represent or embody Westport at all.
In that case, over 1,000 animals were found in squalid conditions in a property off Route 177.
Roger Chandanais said too much in the farming community has already changed.
“It was all farms at one time, we had more dairy farms in Westport than any place around us. Now we’re down to two. With the rules and regulations are coming in here…you can’t do nothing anymore.” Chandanais said.
Animal activist Constance Gee said she was disappointed in the vote. She believes the regulations would only help.
“When we saw what happened out in the Medeiros property a lot of us were just sickened. And I’m sure a lot of our farmers were too but this simple registry, one-page registry, that asked for nothing more than a name, their address; and emergency contact information and the kinds of animals they have and approximate number, that is all, it is shared only with the state, this is not an infringement on their right to farm,” said Gee.
The Westport Board of Selectman said the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office still needs to weigh in about what happens next.
The board of health reiterated Tuesday that the regulations were made to support farmers while keeping animals safe.
Sam Mundel with the Westport Farmers Alliance said, “It’s a great day for Wesport and Westport farmers. The right-to-farm by-law passed with significant support. We’re a strong farming town and we showed it. I hope the board of health will reflect on the overwhelming vote and will consider reversing the registry so we can begin to heal the rift in our community.”