Green (cage-free) eggs & ham? A new campaign for animals

Seeing as I covered Massachusetts ballot question 2 in an earlier post, I thought it was fitting to cover another local ballot question. Ballot question 3 would forbid the sale of eggs, pork, and veal from animals that are raised/live in very tight enclosures.

At first glance, I thought this was a straightforward animal rights question. Of course animals should be humanely raised, right? I’m not vegan or even vegetarian, but I thought the question made sense. It would also seem most people agree, with a recent WBUR poll showing 66% in favor of it, and 25% opposed.

“A yes on 3 is a vote for cage-free, so it’s about giving farm animals enough space to turn around and extend their limbs — it’s that modest,” said Yes on 3’s campaign director Stephanie Harris to WBUR. Harris is also the head of the Massachusetts Humane Society.

However, a debate this Tuesday also discussed the thinking behind the “Against” side.

“If you believe that eggs should be produced in a cage-free environment, you can buy those eggs right now,” said Bill Bell, of the New England Brown Egg Council, a group in opposition of the question. “This is America and the marketplace responds. But do not vote in support of this referendum question.”

Also against the bill is a local anti-poverty spokesperson Diane Sullivan. An audio clip of her thoughts was played at the debate Tuesday.

“I’ve literally gathered change to go to the grocery store to spend a dollar on a dozen eggs,” said Sullivan, who is working with Protect the Harvest, a group fighting cage-free movements in other states. “To essentially remove probably the most affordable and accessible form of protein from the diets of those who are already not perhaps eating enough nutritious food, to me, doesn’t seem very humane.”

It is unclear exactly how much the price of eggs, pork, and veal will rise, however, but there is a consensus that the price will rise and stay up permanently.

“Eggs are inelastic in demand and supply. If the price of eggs [goes] up, people don’t slack off in buying. They stay up,” said Bell. “The reality is that it’s not simply codifying into law. This is making a law. This is a law which [will] force every single taxpayer to pay more in food service and every homeowner to pay more for eggs.”

Regardless of if the ballot passes this November, there still are questions remaining. Since the bill would also prohibit the sale of non-cage free eggs and meat, this impacts farmers outside the state as well, and there are questions as to how the state would regulate this market (and personally, if it’s worth it?). Clearly there is more to figure out with regards to this question, but most likely more will emerge about this question closer to November.

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