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Why Pork Producers are Challenging this Animal Cruelty Law

California Proposition 12 aims to support animal welfare but farmers say it’s unconstitutional

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On Tuesday, October 11, The U.S. Supreme Court held oral arguments in the case of California Proposition 12, which requires the housing of pigs, egg-laying chickens and veal calves in pens more than 24 square feet. California facilities that don’t adhere to the proposition are banned from selling those meat products. Proposition 12 was put on the ballot in November 2018 and passed with 62 percent of the vote. It’s an extension of Proposition 2, a law passed in 2008 to prevent animal cruelty.

The National Pork Producers Council and American Farm Bureau seek to challenge the constitutionality of the proposition. They argue that Proposition 12 violates the Constitutions safeguards against allowing one state to interfere with the nation’s economy. According to the challengers, Proposition 12 places an undue burden on interstate commerce, not just California’s. It effectively forces all or most farmers nationwide to comply with the requirements. Much of the agriculture industry rebukes Proposition 12, as many farming facilities don’t meet its standards. To date, about 65,000 farmers raise 125 million pigs annually, boasting a $26 million in gross sales.

The petition is supported by amicus briefs from 20 state governments, 14 businesses or farm associates outside California and the National Association of Manufacturers and Cattlemen’s Beef Association. 

“California is attempting to set the rules for the entire country,” says American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall in a press release. “Farmers are dedicated to caring for their animals, but this misguided law inhibits efforts to provide them a safe environment. Almost all of the pork consumed in California is produced outside of its borders. This law has the potential to devastate small family farms across the nation through unnecessary and expensive renovations, and every family will ultimately pay for the law through higher food prices.”

The California attorney general Rob Bonta said in a press release he was “disappointed” the court agreed to hear the case, but that he looks forward to continuing to defend Proposition 12. 

The Humane Society of the United States representative Kitty Block believes the proposition prevents animal cruelty and improves food safety, protecting public health

In a statement Block says, “The Court has repeatedly affirmed the states’ rights to enact laws protecting animals, public health and safety, and the pork industry should focus on eliminating cruel caging of animals rather than attacking popular, voter-passed animal cruelty laws.”

What’s Next?

The court is predicted to release its decision on Pork Producers v. Ross in mid-June. A report written by PBS predicts the California law will be upheld. It’s not known whether or not meat prices will be affected, but many proposition opposers believe it to be true. 

To hear the full argument of National Pork Producers v. Ross, click here.