By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson
Today, the United States Supreme Court declined to take the North American Meat Institute’s appeal of its lawsuit challenging Proposition 12, widely considered the world’s strongest law for farm animal protection.
Proposition 12 bans the extreme confinement of egg-laying chickens, mother pigs and baby calves used in the veal industry. The law also prohibits the sale in California of eggs, pork and veal from facilities that confine animals in cruel cages. The Humane Society of the United States led the campaign to pass Proposition 12, which was approved by California voters in a landslide vote in 2018.
The Supreme Court’s outright rejection of the North American Meat Institute’s appeal from its losses in the lower courts is consistent with a long line of prior court rulings, and it reinforces the long-held position of the HSUS and the Humane Society Legislative Fund that states have the right to pass laws protecting animals, public health and safety. This decision is critically important to all of our sales bans enacted to protect animals and consumers—from banning the sale of puppy mill puppies in pet shops to banning the sale of cosmetics tested on animals.
Along with a group of allied organizations, the HSUS intervened in the lawsuit on the side of the State of California to defend Proposition 12. The HSUS was represented in this case by lawyers at Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila and at Molo Lamken, as well as lawyers with the HSUS’s Animal Protection Law department.
The Humane Society Legislative Fund is also working with congressional allies to encourage the Biden Administration to support and defend California and other States’ right to set humane standards to protect farm animals, wildlife and other animals. Last month, Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Alex Padilla, D-Calif., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., led a letter signed by 27 legislators urging Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Attorney General Merrick Garland to withdraw briefs filed by the Trump Administration in support of industry challenges to the California law. Reps. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., and Jason Crow, D-Colo., made a similar appeal, and Rep. Kim Schrier, D-Wash., is mobilizing an additional letter from legislators representing other states with cage-free sales laws.
Now the case will go back to the lower court, where we will continue the fight. But it is our hope that rather than continuing frivolous lawsuits and wasting money, the meat industry will focus on eliminating the cruel caging of animals.
The extreme confinement of farm animals that Proposition 12 outlaws in California produces animal cruelty and suffering unequaled in any sector. Egg-laying chickens, mother pigs and baby calves are confined in cages so small they can barely move. These sensitive, inquisitive animals are virtually immobilized in filthy conditions for nearly their entire lives. Extreme confinement of farm animals also increases public health risks and has been listed as a top driver of zoonotic disease emergence by numerous scientists and even a United Nations report.
Our public policy work and corporate social responsibility campaigns have transformed the landscape of farm animal protection in recent years. Along with HSUS-championed laws against the extreme confinement of farm animals and sales of cruel products, more than 200 of the largest food companies have decided to adopt cage-free policies and convert to cage-free systems.
Today’s news demonstrates loud and clear that the future is cage-free.
Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.