BOSTON (CBS) — Stephanie Harris, the Massachusetts state director of the Humane Society of the United States, says Question 3 centers on living conditions for farm animals.

“There are no rules in Massachusetts regarding how animals can be confined, so a yes vote would ensure that breeding pigs, egg laying hens, and calves raised for veal have enough space to stand up, lie down, turn around and extend their limbs, so it’s really that modest,” she says.

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Harris adds supporters include the MSPCA, the Animal Rescue League of Boston, more than 500 veterinarians, and 100 family farmers.

“We collected more than 170,000 signatures with the help of more than one thousand volunteers,” she says. “We were the only ballot initiative that was able to get the measure on the ballot without hiring a paid signature gathering firm.”

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Opponents like Diane Little, campaign director for the Citizens against Food Tax Injustice, argue there are economic repercussions that aren’t being discussed.

“Essentially Question 3 is a regressive food tax that, in its first year of implementation, would cost consumers in Massachusetts approximately 250 thousand dollars in additional food costs,” she argues.

Little says at one time in her life she was homeless.

“How many families are asking themselves, do I pay my rent or do I feed my children?” she asks.

California’s cage-free egg law took effect a year ago. Supporters and opponents point to different reports when talking about current California egg prices.

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“You see that the cost of eggs today is on par with the national average, and in fact this summer dipped below the national average, and that’s backed up by numerous egg industry studies which show it would only increase the cost by about a penny an egg,” Harris says.

Little disagrees.

“I’m looking at reports that come out of the federal government, from the USDA, every single day, and consistently the cost of eggs in Calilfornia are just out of balance with what they are across the rest of the country.”

Little points out Question 3 would impact out-of-state suppliers, since only one egg farm in Massachusetts uses small cages. That farm is located in western Massachusetts. All other Massachusetts farms are in compliance with all aspects of the proposal.

“This is asking the Massachusetts voters to regulate what happens in other states and how other farmers are producing,” Little says. “This is stealing away affordable choices.”

Harris says the nation is already going in the cage free direction.

“The best example is McDonalds,” she says. “There is probably no greater cost-conscious company out there than McDonalds, and they’ve pledged to go 100 percent cage-free without raising their prices even a single cent.”

Question 3 proponents are clearly ahead in the money race. The Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance reports Citizens for Farm Animal Protection has raised 2.3 million dollars to date. That is in sharp contrast to Citizens against Food Tax Injustice,  which has collected 300 thousand dollars.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Mary Blake reports

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