High Court Ruling Shows Pork Industry Complaints Are Pure Hogwash
National Communications Coordinator
In a much welcomed and long-awaited 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court in mid-May upheld California’s Proposition 12, affirming that states may place limits on commercial exploitation of animals, including animals raised for food.
Prop 12 is the voter-approved 2018 ballot measure that took aim at gestation crates for mother pigs and battery cages for laying hens — confinement systems so severe and restrictive that the animals, standing shoulder to shoulder or wing to wing, cannot even turn around.
Justices rightly swatted away the pork industry’s persistent and overwrought complaints that Prop 12 would devastate them economically. Had the industry prevailed, it would have had a dire impact on similar state animal-welfare initiatives, as well as laws passed by state Legislatures across the country.
Our reaction was well received in mainstream press, including the San Francisco Chronicle, Des Moines Register, and many other print and television news outlets, along with our written opinion published in the Orange County Register, Denver Post, and other newspapers around the country, reminding the public that the states do indeed have rights when it comes to protecting animals and promoting food safety.
Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, writing for the majority, held that the law is constitutional because it is fairly applied, and it reflects core social and scientific values related to the humane treatment of animals and food safety. This was a matter for voters and other policy makers to decide, not judges, wrote Gorsuch
Now is the time for not just the states but for all consumers to act on behalf of tens of millions of pigs and egg-laying hens cruelly confined in factory farms across America — sentient beings who cannot wait or tolerate excuses designed for delays, because the court has determined Prop 12 is a proper exercise of state authority.
“There are also no practical reasons why enforcement should not be immediate or that the pork industry is unable to meet the demands of California’s residents for humanely raised pork,” said Scott Edwards, general counsel for Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy.
“The pork industry has been supplying gestation-crate free pork to the market for years, due to corporate and consumer buyers’ demand for it, and it’s time to stop bellyaching and give customers the product they demand,” he said.
Following the ruling, Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy wrote to California and Massachusetts officials and urged them to enforce the long-delayed restrictions on the sale of pork and put them to work to improve the lives of animals. Pork from factory farms in Iowa, North Carolina, and other states using gestation crates should no longer be sold in California, according to the letter, which can be read here. For thousands of pork producers who now rely on more extensive and humane housing systems, the California and Massachusetts laws provide an amazing marketplace for them.
“Voters approved Proposition 12 in a landslide five years ago to enshrine farm animal welfare standards into law,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action and the key architect of the ballot measures. “Consumers in California and Massachusetts don’t want to contribute to extreme confinement of breeding sows in gestation crates that immobilize the animals. The law must speak and the will of the people must be honored. No more delays in implementation.
“The pork industry has been supplying gestation-crate free pork to the market for years, due to corporate and consumer buyers’ demand for it, and it’s time to stop bellyaching and give customers the product they demand.”
– Scott Edwards, general counsel for Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy.