Voters Approve Soda Tax, Farm Animal Enclosure Initiatives

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By Casey Wooten

Nov. 9 — Public health and animal safety advocates both took home wins at the ballot box Nov. 8 as voters approved initiatives increasing the size of farm animal enclosures and implementing a tax on sugary beverages.

Both campaigns saw high-dollar, national donors jump into local and state elections, perhaps signaling an advancement toward both issues becoming national political issues.

Massachusetts Farm Enclosures

Question 3 on the Massachusetts ballot breezed to victory with 78 percent of the vote. The initiative would prohibit egg-laying hens, calves raised for veal and breeding pigs form being housed in enclosures that prevent the animal from laying down or moving around freely.

The measure applies not only to farms in the state but to certain products imported into Massachusetts as well.

“Massachusetts voters made history today by establishing commonsense rules against the extreme confinement of farm animals,” Stephanie Harris, YES on 3 campaign director, said in a statement. “Implementing Question 3 will prevent animal cruelty and improve food safety for Massachusetts families.”

The Humane Society of the United States spent big on the initiative with a seven-figure ad campaign.

The state now joins 11 others in implementing restrictions on the size of farm animal enclosures. Though most on that list aren’t farm states, supporters say they hope to build up support to move the issue into major poultry and livestock raising states eventually.

Soda Tax Initiatives

Voters across two states approved all four ballot initiatives implementing a tax on sugary beverages.

Voters in San Francisco, Oakland and Albany, Calif. all passed 1-cent-per-ounce taxes on sugary drinks. These initiatives saw the American Beverage Association square off with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg—a longtime supporter of soda taxes—in a campaign that saw total donations soar past the $40 million mark, making it one of the most expensive local campaigns in the country.

Bloomberg is the founder of Bloomberg LP, the parent organization of Bloomberg BNA.

Voters in Boulder, Colo. approved a 2-cent-per-ounce tax on sodas. These cities join Philadelphia and Berkeley, Calif., in levying an excise tax on sugary drinks as well as Mexico.

Public health advocates praised the votes.

“This is an inspiring win for those who care about the health of their communities and a resounding repudiation of Big Soda,” Jim Krieger, executive director of Healthy Food America, said in a statement. “For too long, the big soda companies got away with putting profits over their customer’s health.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Casey Wooten in Washington at cwooten@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at phendrie@bna.com

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