With early voting now a reality in Massachusetts, voters across the Commonwealth have already begun to make their decisions behind the ballot curtain. One of the questions they are being asked to decide is Question 3, An Act to Prevent Cruelty to Farm Animals.

Question 3 seeks to ban certain farm animal confinement practices from being employed in Massachusetts, but also to ban the sale of products – eggs, veal or pork – in Massachusetts that may have come from animals in other states that allow those confinement practices. So we’re not just talking about impacting local Massachusetts farm practices, we’re talking about products from farms around the country. A local retailer thus would be prohibited from selling any eggs, veal or pork that “the business owner or operator knows or should know is the product of a covered animal that was confined in a cruel manner.”

Huh? When you really think about that, how are retailers supposed to know for certain that they are in compliance with this requirement? Retailers will be wholly reliant on the word of the producers and manufacturers of these products. This raises significant concerns about exposure to potential liabilities, but also appears to violate the Interstate Commerce Clause. A similar (yet not as far reaching) ballot question passed a few years ago in California, and that law has been tied up in federal court ever since, currently being challenged along those same interstate commerce grounds. With regard to liability, the concerns are heightened for small, independent stores, which lack the legal and compliance staffing of the larger chains.

To be clear what we’re really talking about here, the veal industry will have voluntarily eliminated the practices prohibited by this question by 2017. So there is no impact on veal. This is really about eggs mostly, and pork to a lesser extent.

So do we need this law to end confinement practices here on our local farms? Well, no. There are no pork farms in Massachusetts that would be impacted by this law. All we have here is the Diemand Farm in Wendell, Massachusetts. The Diemand family has 3,000 egg-producing hens on their family farm. The State of Iowa has almost 51 Million. Check out the Diemand’s Facebook page and view their video tour of the farm to see how well they care for their animals.

Don’t be fooled – the proponents of Question 3 – the Humane Society of the United States – know that there is essentially no impact on our Massachusetts farms and they are using our ballot process, and using Massachusetts voters, to try and impact policies in other states.

What will happen if Question 3 passes? The price of food will go up. Just take a look at the price of cage-free eggs versus regular eggs this weekend at the grocery store; it’s often two to three times more expensive. And what happens when you eliminate choice and mandate that only a certain type of product can be sold….the price will go even higher. Question 3 is a regressive tax on food, as it will hit lower income shoppers disproportionately. Furthermore, small retailers that lack buying clout will have more difficulty sourcing eggs and pork at affordable prices, so Mom & Pop sellers – and their customers – will both lose in the end. Retailers exist to serve their customers by providing quality service and consumer choice at a good value. The customer is always right. Today’s customer has choices. Let’s not be tricked into denying tomorrow’s customer that same choice.

Please join us in voting No on Question 3.

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