Supreme Court upholds California Prop. 12

California's Prop. 1, which bans the in-state sale of pork, eggs, and veal from animals “confined in a cruel manner,” was challenged by the corporate pork production industry.

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The Supreme Court sided with California in the Nat’l Pork Producers Council v. Ross case ruling in favor of upholding the state’s Proposition 12. The law bans the in-state sale of pork, eggs, and veal from animals “confined in a cruel manner.”

California’s Prop. 12 was challenged by the corporate pork production industry arguing that “it unconstitutionally burdens interstate commerce by affecting out-of-state pork producers,” according to a press release.

“Instead, they invite us to fashion two new and more aggressive constitutional restrictions on the ability of states to regulate goods sold within their borders,” Justice Neil Gorsuch said in writing. “We decline that invitation. While the Constitution addresses many weighty issues, the type of pork chops California merchants may sell is not on that list.”

The Supreme Court reviewed the case against Prop. 12, which was brought on by the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and American Farm Bureau Federation, after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s dismissal of it in June 2021. The pork producers and Farm bureau argued that Prop. 12 “violates the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause, which says only Congress has the power to regulate trade among the states,” Capital Press reported. But in its ruling, the Supreme Court found “pork producers and Farm Bureau do not allege that California’s law seeks to advantage in-state firms or disadvantage out-of-state rivals,” according to Capital Press.

“In fact, petitioners disavow any discrimination-based claim, conceding that Proposition 12 imposes the same burdens on in-state pork producers that it imposes on out-of-state ones,” Gorsuch said in writing.

Animal rights and public health advocates called the Supreme Court’s ruling a win “for animal welfare and a more regenerative, healthful, and humane future of our food,” George Kimbrell, Center for Food Safety legal director, said.

“The Supreme Court rejected industrial agriculture’s far-reaching efforts to curtail states’ rights to enact laws governing farming to prevent animal cruelty and to protect the public health,” Kimbrell said. “Instead the Court properly recognized the value and benefits of such laws. Intensive confinement of pigs poses profound danger to food safety and the public health such as foodborne illness and disease and pathogen transmission, and important laws like Prop 12 mitigate those risks.”

In a statement issued by the pork producers council, it said it would continue to “fight for our nation’s pork farmers and American families against misguided regulations”

“Allowing state overreach will increase prices for consumers and drive small farms out of business, leading to more consolidation,” Scott Hays, who is the NPPC president and a Missouri pork producer, said.

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