The North American Meat Institute (Meat Institute) has filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 12: The Farm Animal Confinement Initiative. Enacted in November 2018, Prop 12 sets minimum space requirements for calves raised for veal calves, breeding pigs, and egg-laying hens and bans the sale of raw veal, pork, or eggs from animals that are not housed accordingly. The Meat Institute opposes the law because it claims it will hurt the United States’ food value chain by significantly increasing costs for producers and consumers.

“Prop 12 hurts the family on a budget with higher prices for pork, veal, and eggs, and unfairly punishes livestock producers outside of California by forcing them to spend millions more just to access California markets,” said Julie Anna Potts, Meat Institute president and CEO. “We are a highly efficient and unified economy in this country and so that’s just not right. If this unconstitutional law is allowed to stand, California will dictate farming practices across the nation. California’s overreach creates an unworkable patchwork of differing state regulations that will make it impossible for the supply chain, from small farmers to your local grocer, to function.”

The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, asks the court to halt implementation of the law (grant a preliminary injunction) because Prop 12 violates the commerce clause and the federal structure of the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution prohibits states from discriminating against interstate and foreign commerce, regulating commerce outside of their borders, or imposing undue burdens on interstate and foreign commerce. According to the Meat Institute, Prop 12 violates each of these limitations.

Animal rights groups had differing opinions regarding Prop 12. The Humane Society of the United States backed the measure, while People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals opposed it, saying it did not go far enough.

“California voters have sent a loud and clear message that they reject cruel cage confinement in the meat and egg industries,” said Kitty Block, acting president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, when Prop 12 passed by a 63% to 37% vote in November 2018. “Thanks to the dedication of thousands of volunteers and coalition partners who made this victory happen, millions of veal calves, mother pigs, and egg-laying hens will never know the misery of being locked in a tiny cage for the duration of their lives.”

Meat Institute press release

Humane Society press release

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